New Delhi: The government has ordered Internet service providers (ISPs) and telecom operators to block more than 800 pornographic websites.
The government also plans to put in place an ombudsman to look into cyber content-related issues, even as a debate raged on social media over Internet censorship.
The Department of Electronics and Information Technology has asked Internet service providers to take down 857 porn websites, an official said.
The official, however, said it was a temporary measure till the final orders are pronounced by the top court.
Explaining rationale for the decision, a top government official said the government has merely complied with the Supreme Court directive asking for measures to block porn sites, particularly those dealing with child pornography.
The official, however, said that since the issue is very complicated, the case must be heard in detail by involvement of NGOs, civil society, parental groups, child councillors, ISPs and government, and after hearing the views of all, let the court come with some guidelines.
"The government must be away from this whole process (blocking of porn sites). On the issue of national security, terrorism, extremism, communalism, government will have the final say...beyond that the social media divide comes into operation, let there be an ombudsman to take a call, like the TV ombudsman is there," the official said.
The ombudsman could be a retired SC judge or somebody from the civil society. The official said all the stakeholders can give their views regarding the regulatory mechanism that should be adopted for the cyber content related issues.
Users complained that the government was using concern over child porn as an excuse to crack down on adult websites and intrude into the private space of citizens.
They also said that it is an intrusion into their personal space by restricting them to watch adult content within the confines of their home.
Earlier on July 8, the Supreme Court had observed that it cannot stop an adult from exercising his fundamental right to personal liberty to watch porn within the privacy of his room.
“Such interim orders cannot be passed by this court. Somebody may come to the court and say look I am above 18 and how can you stop me from watching it within the four walls of my room. It is a violation of Article 21 [right to personal liberty],” Chief Justice H.L. Dattu had said on a PIL seeking ban on porn sites.
The PIL petitioner Kamlesh Vaswani had argued that there are 4 crore porn websites operating in the country and crime against women and children are "majorly influenced" by such porn sites which were on the rise.
Though denying immediate relief, the Chief Justice's Bench acknowledged the seriousness of the issue and asked the Union home ministry to file a detailed affidavit within four weeks.
The government had then said that it was mostly helpless in implementing the law to locate and shut down the websites. It had submitted to the court that these sites were well-masked, with servers located outside the country and based on high-end technology difficult to catch up with.
The government had informed the court that it was working on an internet security policy and has taken the matter seriously with the Cyber Regulations Advisory Committee.
The service providers had submitted that they on their own cannot block such sites and they can do so only on the direction of the government.
It was submitted that the Centre had failed to devise mechanism to block such sites and absence of Internet laws encouraged people to watch porn videos and as it was not an offence.
The order to block porn websites, however, faced flak over social media with commentators calling it censorship of Internet.
Several personalities including author Chetan Bhagat and filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma have spoken up against the ban calling it an intrusion to privacy.