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Child pornography a matter of serious concern: SC

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court of India has noted that while it may not be considered an offense for a child to watch pornography, the involvement of children in pornography is a matter of serious importance and can indeed constitute an offence.

This observation was made by a bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice JB Pardiwala while deferring the verdict on an appeal filed by NGOs – Just Rights for Children Alliance of Faridabad and New Delhi-based Bachpan Bachao Andolan – seeking a challenged the decision of the Madras High Court. These organizations are committed to the well-being of children.

The court stated: “A child watching pornography may not be a criminal offence, but children being used in pornography may be a criminal offense and a matter of serious concern.”

The Madras High Court had earlier ruled that mere downloading and viewing of child pornography does not violate the POCSO Act and the Information Technology Act. On January 11, criminal proceedings were dismissed against a 28-year-old man accused of downloading pornographic content involving children onto his mobile phone.

Senior advocate HS Phoolka, who represented the two organizations, challenged the Supreme Court’s decision, citing provisions of the POCSO Act and the Information Technology Act.

The bank emphasized that if anyone receives such material, it must be deleted or destroyed to avoid legal consequences under relevant laws. The continued possession of child pornographic material without removal or destruction can constitute a criminal offense, the court said.

In response to arguments from the defendant’s counsel, who claimed that the material had been automatically downloaded onto WhatsApp, the court responded.

The Supreme Court has allowed the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to intervene in the case and file written arguments before April 22.

The Chief Justice said: “Arguments have been completed and judgment is reserved.”

Earlier, on March 11, the Supreme Court had criticized the Madras High Court verdict and agreed to consider the NGOs’ appeal against it. The Supreme Court had suggested that society should educate them instead of punishing children for watching porn.

The top court had also sought responses from S. Harish, a resident of Chennai, and two police officers from Tamil Nadu.

The Supreme Court had quashed the criminal case against Harish under the POCSO Act and the Information Technology Act and said that simply downloading and viewing child pornography is not a criminal offence. However, it expressed concern about children viewing pornography and emphasized the need for education and guidance.