The Uttarakhand High Court has ordered the IT Ministry to enforce the 2015 ban of 857 porn websites, Live Law reports. Internet service providers which don’t comply with the order will have their licenses terminated, the court said. “Unlimited access to these pornographic sites is required to be blocked / curbed to avoid adverse influence on the impressionable mind of the children,” a bench of acting chief justice Rajiv Sharma and judge Manoj Kumar Tiwari said.

MediaNama has reached out to the IT Ministry for comment. The IT Ministry told MediaNama that although they haven’t had time to review the order, they may update the court on the fact that the ban was withdrawn (something the High Court’s order does not mention), and seek further instructions from the court accordingly. The next hearing on this case is on the 20th October.

ACT Broadband is the only ISP that returned a request for comment, and they declined to participate in the story.

From PIL annexure to High Court order

In 2015, the Supreme Court ordered the government to ‘develop a mechanism’ to block pornography on the internet. The petitioner in that case, Kamlesh Vaswani, attached as annexure, a list of 857 sites that he wanted blocked. In response to the court’s order, Pinky Anand, the Additional Solicitor General of India, forwarded that list to the government, which promptly ordered internet service providers to block them.

Following a public outcry, the porn ban was rolled back, with the government issuing a circular that said that only child porn needed to be banned. That circular effectively withdrew the previous ban, and allowed ISPs to unblock the 857 sites. This case is still pending in the Supreme Court.

The Uttarakhand High Court acted on its own to revive the order — it issued this order suo motu. Pointing to rape incidents, one of which involved four students raping a minor in a school, the court argued that porn access was key in enabling such behaviour. The order does not mention that the government withdrew its 2015 circular, nor does it cite any evidence for the link between consumption of pornography and the perpetration of sexual assault.