NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Tuesday asked the Centre to resume its meetings with internet intermediaries including Google, WhatsApp and Facebook for eliminating circulation of child pornography and rape videos and images.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde took note of the submissions of lawyer Aparna Bhat, representing Hyderabad-based NGO 'Prajwala', that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has not convened a meeting of all the stakeholders since December, 2018 to effectively deal with the circulation of rape and other obscene videos on social sites.
The top court, in 2015, had taken suo motu (on its own) cognizance of a letter written to the then CJI H L Dattu (since retired) alleging circulation of two rape videos.
It had provided the videos in a pen-drive.
The bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, said it would ask the MHA, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, to hold the meeting.
Mehta assured the court that the MHA would convene the meeting and no order to this effect was needed to be passed.
Bhat said there have been differences between internet intermediaries and the NGO with regard to handling the circulation of rape or other such pornographic materials.
She said that as per the NGO, the circulation of such materials can be stopped at the outset, but intermediaries have been saying that action can be taken after these materials are brought to their notice.
"If an action to stop circulation of a rape video is taken after 36 hours then by that time it becomes viral," Bhat said, adding that the issue of child pornography falls under POCSO (the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act) where mandatory reporting is needed.
Lawyer N S Nappinai, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae, suggested that artificial intelligence tools can be used to identify such objectionable contents to ensure their early elimination from social media platforms.
The bench asked Bhat to provide copy of status report to all parties to the case and fixed the plea for hearing after four weeks.
Earlier in 2018, the top court had said the Centre might frame guidelines or standard operating procedure (SoP) to eliminate on-line videos and images of child pornography and rape and implement them.
"The Government of India may frame the necessary guidelines/SoP and implement them so as to eliminate child pornography, rape and gang rape imageries, videos and sites in content hosting platforms and other applications," the bench had said.
Prior to this, it had observed that the Centre and internet giants, including Google, Microsoft and Facebook, were in agreement that videos of rape, child pornography and objectionable material were needed to be "stamped out".
The MHA had suggested that the intermediaries should deploy trusted flaggers for identifying and deletion of unlawful content and also set up of 24X7 mechanism for dealing with requisitions of law enforcement agencies.
It had also suggested that there should be prompt disposal of requisitions of law enforcement agencies to remove unlawful contents.
The NGO's letter to the then CJI was taken note of by the apex court in 2015 and had asked the CBI to launch a probe to apprehend the culprits responsible for circulation of rape videos.
The 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.