NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Monday fixed November 15 as deadline for the Centre to finalise a standard operating procedure (SoP) for a cyber police portal to handle complaints regarding child pornography, child sexual abuse, rapes and obscene content on the Internet.
A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and U U Lalit noted that first version of the SoP was prepared on June 18 this year and it was subsequently revised on July 12.
The bench also noted the submissions of the counsel appearing for the Centre that the document had undergone some changes and comments were being received from various state governments.
It said that since these comments, improvements and suggestions from the state governments may be a continuous process, "we are of the opinion that a cut-off date must be fixed for finalising the standard operating procedure.
Accordingly, we fix November 15, 2018 as the date for finalising the standard operating procedure".
"Of course, this does not mean that improvements cannot be made from time to time and as and when necessary," it said, adding that copy of SoP be given to all the parties involved in the matter pending before it so that they could make their suggestions to the Ministry of Home Affairs by November 9.
"This deadline should be communicated to the state governments also. We are constrained to fix this deadline because the Union of India has already had more than two months of experience in working the standard operating procedure and the portal and there must be some finality to the process," the court said.
During the hearing, the counsel appearing for the petitioner said that in some cases there was no response from the concerned nodal officer about the steps taken when a direction was given to the intermediaries to take down some objectionable content.
"It is pointed out that as per the information given by Additional Solicitor General 43 notices have been issued as on October 22, 2018, but the total number of take down orders passed is only 21. There is no clarity with regard to the balance 22," the bench noted.
"Similarly, the total number of complaints received are 630, but the number of complaints taken up for enquiry is only 355. It is again not clear what has happened to the balance complaints," the court noted in its order.
It asked the Centre to file an affidavit indicating the number of complaints received, the action taken in a tabulated form so that there was clarity on the action taken in this regard.
The counsel appearing for the Centre said they were contemplating having some grievance redressal mechanism which might require some time but efforts were being made.
The counsel said that names of all the nodal officers would be put up on the portal so that public was aware of the person with whom they can get in touch with in case any objectionable material was placed on the internet.
"In the meanwhile, an officer superior to the nodal officer may be identified so that in case of any disagreement with the views of the nodal officer, some sort of an appeal can be preferred to the higher authority," the bench said.
The apex court posted the matter for further hearing on November 22 and asked the Centre to file a fresh status report before it.
The court was hearing a matter following a letter sent in 2015 to then Chief Justice of India H L Dattu by Hyderabad-based NGO Prajwala, along with two rape videos in a pen-drive.
The court had on its own taken cognisance of the letter and asked the CBI to launch a probe to apprehend the culprits.
The NGO's letter had also 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.