Supreme Court Questions Madras High Court’s Shock Verdict On Child Pornography

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Supreme Court Questions High Court's Shock Verdict On Child Pornography

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court on Monday red-flagged a Madras High Court decision to not consider the downloading of child pornography as a crime. A bench led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud issued notice to the Tamil Nadu Police and the accused in this case.

The Supreme Court was hearing a plea challenging the High Court’s shocking January ruling – that downloading child pornography is not an offence under POCSO, or Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, or the Information Technology Act since such actions were taken “in privacy without affecting or influencing anyone else”.

“The moment an accused tries to circulate or distribute or publicly exhibit obscene photos and videos, then the ingredients of the offence starts kicking in…” the court said.

The court reasoned that to qualify as an offence under POCSO, and the IT Act, the accused had to have created, published, and transmitted the material. And wth relation to the IT Act, it said the relevant section did not cover cases where an individual only downloaded and watched content, without doing more.

The court therefore quashed proceedings against a 28-year-old man who had been charged with downloading child pornographic content to his mobile phone.

READ | Madras High Court’s Concern Over Gen-Z “Grappling” With Porn

As a result, all legal action against the accused was dropped.

The High Court did, however, complain about children today “grappling” with the issue of watching pornography, declaring it could have negative consequences years later.

Also declaring the accused to have been “afflicted with this (watching pornography) addiction”, the court advised counselling for a “healthy and happy future”.

In October last year, the central government sent notices to social media platforms X (formerly Twitter), YouTube, and Telegram, warning they would lose legal immunity unless they act on this issue urgently.

The platforms were asked to permanently remove, or disable access to, child pornography content. 

READ | “Act Against Child Porn, Or Lose Legal Immunity”: Centre To Tech Giants

The centre’s action followed reports that another social media platform – Instagram – is home to a vast network of such content being created and shared. A Wall Street Journal report said Instagram’s algorithms linked and promoted this network of people seeking illegal sexual content and activity.

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