Raj Kundra arrest: A closer look at laws governing pornography in India

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Watching pornography on personal devices is not illegal in India but sharing/distributing it is, as per a Supreme Court verdict in July 2015.

Raj Kundra arrest: A closer look at laws governing pornography in India
Businessman Raj Kundra, husband of actor Shilpa Shetty, was arrested by the Mumbai Police on July 19 in connection with an adult film racket. He has been booked under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 420 (cheating), 34 (common intention), 292 and 293 (related to obscene and indecent advertisements and displays), besides relevant sections of the IT Act and the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act.
An FIR was registered against 45-year-old Kundra based on a complaint by a woman. Mumbai Police Commissioner Hemant Nagrale said the case against Kundra was registered in February 2021 as key conspirator with respect to creating pornographic films and publishing them through certain apps.
Watching pornography on personal devices is not illegal (as per IPC and IT Acts) in India but sharing/distributing it is, as per a Supreme Court verdict in July 2015.
In August 2015, the Centre instructed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to issue an order to internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to 857 pornographic or adult sites.
Laws Related to Pornography
Section 292 says that "something" can be deemed to be obscene if it is lewd or lustful or if it tends to degrade and corrupt another person. The punishment for the first conviction could extend to two years in prison and a fine of up to Rs 2,000; and for the second conviction it could extend to five years and a fine of up to Rs 5,000.
Section 293 says that whoever sells, distributes, exhibits or circulates to any person under the age of 20 years (any such obscene object as is referred to in the last preceding section) shall be punished. The punishment for the first conviction could extend to a three-year sentence and a fine of up to Rs 2,000; and for the second conviction it could extend to a prison term of up to seven years and a fine of up to Rs 5,000.
IPC 354 about outraging the modesty of women has Sub-section 354A related to showing pornography against the will of a woman, where the punishment can be a prison term of up to three years or with a fine, or both.
IPC 354D is about pornographic offences related to collecting pictures of girls or women from their social media handles and is publishable with a term of up to three years (five years for second conviction) and a fine on conviction.
Section 509 is about outraging the modesty of a woman and often used along with sexual assault. The punishment is a jail term of up to three years or fine or both. Section 509A (harassment by relative) carries a term of up to five years and Section 509B (harassment by electronic mode) is punishable by six months to two years imprisonment plus fine.
Section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 is about publishing or transmitting sexually explicit acts in the electronic form. The punishment for the first conviction can extend to three years and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh and the second conviction can entail a term of up to five years and a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh.
The Section 67A amendment relates to electronic transmission of material containing sexually explicit acts. The punishment for the first conviction can extend to five years and a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh and the second conviction can entail a term of up to seven years and a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh.
Section 67B is with respect to child pornography, which is governed under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and IT Act. The punishment is similar to 67A.
Section 66E of the IT Act prescribes punishment for violation of privacy intentionally without the other person’s consent. The punishment could extend to three years of prison time or a fine of up to Rs 2 lakh or both.
The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 and its sections 2, 3 and 4 prohibit indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner and for related matters.
The punishment for the first conviction under Section 3 or 4 is a term of up to two years and a fine of up to Rs 2,000; and the second conviction entails a term of not less than six months and a fine of not less than Rs 10,000, which can extend up to Rs 1 lakh.