Lashing out at the internet majors, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, and instant messaging application WhatsApp, for disregarding Supreme Court’s order directing them to furnish details of the complaints they have received in India regarding online child pornography and their subsequent failure to disclose steps taken to curb the circulation of child pornography on their platforms, the Supreme Court has imposed a fine of INR 100,000 (USD 1491 approx.) on each company.
The genesis of this order lies in a complaint (PIL) sent on January 2015 to the former CJI, H.L Dattu by a Hyderabad based NGO, Prajwala stating that “videos of sexual violence were being circulated in abundance via internet and WhatsApp”, along with two rape videos on YouTube via a pen-drive. In 2017, the Apex Court
suo moto took cognizance of the letter and asked the CBI to investigate the matter.
The NGO’s letter had mooted the idea of maintaining a national sex offenders’ register which should contain details of persons convicted for offences like eve-teasing, stalking, molestation and other sexual assaults. The NGO had also suggested that Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) should have a tie-up with YouTube and WhatsApp to ensure that such offensive videos are not uploaded, and the culprits punished. A committee under the chairmanship of Ajith Kumar was appointed to assist and advice the Court regarding the solutions to curb the problem of sexual offences and online child pornography.
The committee submitted a report stating 11 proposals which were uniformly agreed upon by the members. The Court then required the parties i.e. internet giants and the Government to implement these 11 proposals. The apex court asked them to provide such details they received in 2016 and till August 3, 2017 about the uploading of objectionable contents on child pornography, rape and gang rape, and also about the action taken by them on such complaints. A bench comprising Justices Madan B. Lokur and U. U. Lalit directed the Ministry of Home Affiars (MHA) to apprise it about the number of prosecution under the provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) 2012, during this period.
Justice Madan B. Lokur and U.U. Lalit, by order dated April 16, 2018 ordered all social networks to inform the response of the actions taken by them in the next hearing i.e. May 18, 2018. But the major websites did not file any response.
MHA submitted that it will require about 2 more months to launch the final version of an online platform for the reporting of cybercrime as the ministry is coordinating with the States and the Union Territories in this regard. The Court opined that the ministry had taken “more than sufficient time” to complete the work and still a lot of work was remaining. However, the bench has granted further time to HMA till June 30, 2018, to complete the remaining work.