India’s passing of the Information Technology Amendment allows the government to intercept any messages within the country to investigate any offense. This includes cell phones, computers and any other device used for communications.
Any email you send, any message you text are now open to the prying eyes of the government. So are the contents of your computer you surfed in the privacy of your home.
Around 45 amendments have been made to the original Act, which now treats both publishers of online pornography and its consumers on equal footing. A law so sweeping in its powers that it allows a police officer in the rank of a sub-inspector to walk in or break in to the privacy of your home and see if you were surfing porn or not. It’s the personal morality of the official that will decide whether the picture/content you were looking at was lascivious or appeals to prurient interest.
The amended Act also grants the state absolute power to block access to any website in the national interest. In short a total gag and surveillance act that doesn’t set any limits for law enforcers, or have inbuilt safeguards against misuse.
Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device, — (a) any content that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or (b) any content which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will… shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years and with fine.
What this means is that any joke, no matter how off-color or offensive, is now punishable with jail time!
Whoever publishes/ transmits/ causes to be published/ transmitted in the electronic form, 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, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either prescription for a term which may extend to two years and with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees and in the event of second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and also with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees.
Porn aside, this covers a vast range of websites, including Bollywood, Hollywood, and Page 3.
If the material is sexually explicit act or conduct then the punishment on first conviction is imprisonment which may extend to five years and a fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees. In the event of second or subsequent conviction imprisonment may extend to seven years and fine to ten lakh rupees.
But one has to admit that there is concern on part of the government on what could be the impact of the law on art and literature. So section 67 does not extend to any book, pamphlet, paper, writing, drawing, painting, representation or figure in electronic form, provided it is in the interest of science, literature, art or learning or religion. That means M.F Hussein can’t be framed under IT Act anymore, and that photos and videos are not considered art.
Ah, so porn is covered. While it appears to be targeting the uploading of porn, it could also be made to cover looking at it. In my humble opinion, if you don’t like porn or explicit images, then don’t look at them. Regulating them to the point of imprisonment is ridiculous. Porn is a form of art. It’s not one I care for, but I don’t surf around for it.
A totalitarian law with new morality police to monitor you is not what India needs. India’s supreme court sometimes sides with the people so, if there’s enough outcry, and the law is challenged, it’s likely to be overturned. I just don’t see how any country is ever going to completely outlaw pornography. This amendment was meant to cover immoral acts, which shouldn’t be legislated in the first place, and it left too many doors open for abuse once it became law.