Although most porn sites are banned in India due to a 2018 high court order, the Supreme Court has been equivocal in its views on online pornography.
Businessman Raj Kundra was arrested on Monday for allegedly producing pornographic content and distributing it on multiple apps, The Indian Express reported. Kundra is married to Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty. The Chief Product Officer of Kundra’s app JL Stream was also reportedly arrested in the case. A PR firm that represented JL Stream said that it was no longer associated with Kundra’s app, and Mumbai Police’s public relations officer remained unreachable on the phone when MediaNama called. We will update this story if we hear back from the police. Scroll reported that a total of 12 people have been arrested in the case.
We have arrested Raj Kundra in this case on 19/7/21 as he appears to be the key conspirator of this. We have sufficient evidences regarding this. Investigation is in progress. — Mumbai Police spokesperson, per Express report
The police said that in addition to producing and distributing pornography, which is illegal in India, staff at these productions invited women under the pretext of shooting a web series, but informed them of the true nature of the shoot at the last minute, coercing them by demanding payment for shoot preparations if they resisted. This case is separate from the one that was registered by Maharashtra Cyber last November, in which the Express reports that Kundra is being investigated as well; the businessman reportedly filed for anticipatory bail over the issue earlier this year, but the Bombay High Court hasn’t yet heard the case.
Online pornography in India
While producing and distributing pornography is illegal in India, the Supreme Court has been inconsistent in how it views the matter. In 2015, the court refused to provide interim relief to get porn websites blocked, citing the right to privacy. But in March this year, the court in an unrelated matter observed that streaming services sometimes had content bordering on pornography, and that tighter regulations around this would be required. Streaming services are subject to looser regulations due to privacy considerations as well: a Ministry of Information & Broadcasting official said as much at a recent webinar, where he said that unlike theatrical content, streaming services produced content for individual consumption.
However, the bulk of leading porn websites have been blocked in India since 2018, following a Uttarakhand High Court order in a suo motu case that followed a high-profile gang rape in Dehradun. While the government initially said that the court was mistaken in ordering the restoration of a faulty 2015 porn ban order, the court insisted that the faultiness of the past order was irrelevant, and ultimately prevailed.
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