An Indian NGO filed a petition before the Bombay High Court seeking a blanket prohibition on websites that display any “material pertaining to sex.” The justification for the proposed ban was that this material “is harmful to the youth of this country in their formative years.” (Op. at 1).
The Indian Information and Technology Act (ITA) prohibits sexual content in a manner that might be seen as akin to American bans on obscenity.
Under Section 67 of the ITA, publishers can be sentenced to three years imprisonment for dissemination of any material “which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest” or “if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons” who are likely to read or see the material.
The Petitioner sought to have the court direct the Indian government to pro-actively shut down any websites containing sexually explicit themes. However, in rejecting the petition, the High Court ruled declared that the Court is a “protector of free speech to the citizens of this country.” (Op. at 2).
The Indian Court did not go so far as to say such websites were protected speech in India (they are not). The court reminded the petitioner that if there were specific websites at issue, then they could bring a direct complaint under the ITA. However, the Court would not compel the Indian executive branch to begin a campaign of seeking out and shutting down sexually themed websites.
H/T: Larry Walters