Indian Students Protest Telecommunications Act

Jeff Berg
PUNE, India — Twelve law students have banded together, forming a group to oppose an Indian anti-pornography law that they say is so broad as to allow for the arrest of head of Internet service providers, telecommunications providers and cyber café owners.

The group, called “Committee 67” was formed from students at the Symbiosis, ILS and DY Patil universities who are pursuing degrees in cyber laws and alleges that Section 67 of the Information Technology Act of 2000, recently brought to public view by the arrest of the head of eBay-owned Bazee.com, also goes against principles of natural justice by making accused individuals prove their innocence.

“While studying the IT Act, we found that Section 67 is too wide and ambiguous in its approach,” group leader Shreyas Adyanthaya told the Times of India. “Misapplication of this section has occurred and will continue to occur, resulting in the arrest and detention of innocent people.”

The law was recently the subject of global uproar when Avnish Bajaj, CEO of Bazee.com, was arrested in connection with a listing for a CD that contained video of two teenagers engaging in oral sex that appeared on the website. Though Bajaj had no direct connection to the listing, the Indian government still arrested him for violating Section 67.

The law itself punishes the publication, transmission or “cause to publish” of obscene material through electronic media with up to five years in jail, but the group takes issue with the use of words and phrases like “whoever” and “whoever causes to be published,” which they say allows for the arrest of any individuals that even provides a venue through which adult material can be transmitted.

“Because of this, the possibilities of arrest are limitless,” said group member Abriti Mudgal.

According to Committee 67, a strict interpretation of the law means that it could be applied to search engines and email service providers, even though they may not be actively engaged in the distribution of adult content.

The group is now suggesting that Section 67 be modified to appear more like Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code, which concerns the distribution of non-electronic adult material and limits punishment to those with “knowledge and intention” of the crime.