Full transcript of Kapil Sibal's interview with NDTV

Full transcript of Kapil Sibal's interview with NDTV

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New Delhi In an exclusive interview, Union Communications and Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal talks to NDTV's Barkha Dutt about allegations that the government is trying to censor, regulate and police the online world. During the interview, the minister clarified that he had never asked for pre-screening of online content. He also added that had asked social networking giants like Google and Facebook to ensure that offensive material is deleted. This, says Mr Sibal, does not amount to censorship.

Here's the full transcript of the interview:

Barkha Dutt:
Thanks very much Kapil for your time on the program. Let me start where the controversy actually began, with the New York Times report. The New York Times report, and I am just going to read out some key bits, here is what it said. It said that Kapil Sibal showed executives from Google and Facebook images that maligned Sonia Gandhi on Facebook and called those images unacceptable. You further are reported to have told Google or Facebook that they needed to set-up proactive pre-screening systems, and you also then went on to say that these systems should be manned, not by technology, but by human beings. There was an uproar, and outpouring of rage, a backlash. What did you actually say to these executives?
 
Kapil Sibal:
First of all let's be clear. Normally a newspaper, at least of the stature and prestige of the New York Times, would, before publication of any piece like that, have contacted me.
 
Barkha Dutt: They didn't? Did they try and get in touch with you?
 
Kapil Sibal: Not at all. They didn't get in touch with me. So I'm a little surprised how the New York Times made a statement like that. Number two, in that New York Times article, there is no quote of anybody.
 
Barkha Dutt:
Well they've obviously sourced it from the executives who met with you, of Google and Facebook.
 
Kapil Sibal:
Correct. So therefore...
 
Barkha Dutt: Which is legitimate journalism.
 
Kapil Sibal:
No, no, no. But they have not quoted anything even then.
 
Barkha Dutt: It's source based journalism.
 
Kapil Sibal: Right.  So it's source based...
 
Barkha Dutt:
Which doesn't make it incorrect
 
Kapil Sibal: I didn't say it was incorrect, but they should have sought my comment before they made a statement like that. Right? They didn't. Number one. Number two, we have been having meetings with the platform creators since 5th of September.
 
Barkha Dutt: What triggered it? Why did you seek a meeting?
 
Kapil Sibal: Because there were some demeaning, degrading, clearly pornographic depictions of gods and goddesses. With reference to which no reasonable, sensible person anywhere in the world would accept, on any side. And I said that I would like to start a dialogue, to see if it was possible to ensure that these kind of depictions and content does not come on Google or Facebook or any other...
 
Barkha Dutt: What was their response?
 
Kapil Sibal: And I said let's talk about it for four weeks. They didn't come back to us. This was on 5th September. On 3rd of October we wrote a letter to them, reminding them that they had to come back to us. And they promised that they would come back, on the premise that whatever content I showed them, according to their own standards, was not acceptable to them. The first thing I asked...
 
Barkha Dutt: Did they acknowledge that?
 
Kapil Sibal: Yes. They said that none of this content should be on the site. That's how the dialogue started. Right? So it's everybody's case that such content should not be on the site. On 3rd of October we wrote a letter. They never responded. On 19th of October we again got in touch with them, again they did not respond. On the 4th of November the Secretary took a meeting with them, and said that let's evolve standards on the basis of which we can have a dialogue, and agree to something that you should evolve on your own. A discussion took place. Nothing came out of it. On the 17th of November another meeting took place and they agreed by and large, orally, to certain things but then again nothing happened. On the...
 
Barkha Dutt: Why didn't you just, for example, sue them? Take recourse to the law?
 
Kapil Sibal:
We'll come to that a little later. Let me just...
 
Barkha Dutt: Because the law covers all of the incidents that you spoke about.
 
Kapil Sibal: Alright. If I sued them, first of all they would have to tell me the source. As to who has created that site, who has depicted those things.
 
Barkha Dutt: Because they are third party hosts...
 
Kapil Sibal: Then they won't give it to me. We've seen it in the past. Even for terrorists they don't give us the source. Okay? So we don't get the source so who do we sue? Assuming we were to get the source and they were outside the jurisdiction, a lot of them are outside the jurisdiction of India, so we would have to engage somebody for millions of dollars to sue somebody, whereas the content would continue to be on the site. Then it will take 5 years to sue somebody and get a judgement. In other words all this stuff would be on the site. So suing somebody outside the jurisdiction, when you don't get the source, is wholly impractical.
 
Barkha Dutt: What was the response you got at your last meeting? The one the New York Times reports on.
 
Kapil Sibal:
Nothing. So on 29th of November I told them that you have to now give us something in writing. You said four weeks, three months have passed. And I never wrote to any of these sites, nor did the government remove something. If we were interested in any kind of censorship we would have requested them to remove.
 
Barkha Dutt: You asked them to take down these images.
 
Kapil Sibal:
Yes.
 
Barkha Dutt
: Did you confront them with an image of Sonia Gandhi and say that this is unacceptable?
 
Kapil Sibal:
No, no, no, no, no. We confronted them with a host of images.
 
Barkha Dutt: Did that include political leaders?
 
Kapil Sibal:
It included, I don't know because I, you know, I was not looking at, but mostly it was religious. And you've seen it. Barkha, you've seen it. I have shown it to you.
 
Barkha Dutt: I've seen, like other journalists, three-four of the images that do pertain to...
 
Kapil Sibal: Yeah. You please tell me, are any of those images acceptable on any site anywhere in the world, based on any community standards that most civilized communities accept?
 
Barkha Dutt:
Fair enough.
 
Kapil Sibal: If you accept that, can you then say to me that I will throw my hands up, I won't give you a solution, even though I think that the content is bad?
 
Barkha Dutt: Do you believe, that the mistake that has been made, is that the perception is that what you actually asked to be taken down were images of political leaders? Which sounds to people like political censorship.
 
Kapil Sibal: I am sorry Barkha, you are again repeating...
 
Barkha Dutt: I am just asking you. What did you say?
 
Kapil Sibal:
You keep on repeating the same thing when I have told you...  
 
Barkha Dutt: What did you say to the executives?
 
Kapil Sibal: When I have told you, in my press conference also I circulated...
 
Barkha Dutt: The images. Yes, yes.
 
Kapil Sibal: And I've showed it to you. Does it contain any reference to...
 
Barkha Dutt: Not the four-five images I have seen. No. But are there more images?
 
Kapil Sibal: Not four-five. I'm sorry, I have sent you about 40 images. Not four-five. Does it contain anything on any religious leader? Err, any political leader? It doesn't. So what are we talking about? In the press conference when I said, when I showed it, did it contain any reference to any political leader? It did not. These are all pornographic. These are all unacceptable content with respect to gods and goddesses of various religions, which, if they were in the public domain, would create problems.
 
Barkha Dutt: So you categorically deny that the images that you have complained about do not pertain to satirical references to political leaders?
 
Kapil Sibal: I would welcome satirical references to political leaders as part of freedom of expression. It's nobody's case that the media and social networking sites cannot suggest all this.
 
Barkha Dutt: Can I take you through a report put out by Google? It calls itself the Google Transparency Report and this has created a great deal of consternation. It's added to the suspicion that people have that you are trying to gag online voices. In 2011 the Google Transparency Report  says that government agencies, now these include the Centre, the state, the police, the court, just government agencies requested the removal of 358 items. Of these over 70% requests fell in the category of what Google calls government criticism. Only eight, only eight, fell in the category of hate speech. Compare this to 2010 and the number was much less. It was only 10 for government criticism. Some people would turn around and say the government's having a much tougher 2011, therefore a much greater volume of traffic under the category 'government criticism'?
 
Kapil Sibal: First of all I don't know the sources of all this.
 
Barkha Dutt: Google Transparency Report. Google's report.
 
Kapil Sibal: I don't know the sources who complained.
 
Barkha Dutt: Google's own report.
 
Kapil Sibal: I don't know who complained to Google. Okay. I inquired from my ministry as to how many complaints we had sent to Google in 2011, and I was told that three to four requests were sent in 2011 by my ministry. And none of them were accepted.
 
Barkha Dutt: None of them were accepted?
 
Kapil Sibal: None of them were accepted. Did we sue them? Have we said anything? Have we gagged them? Have we done anything about it?
 
Barkha Dutt: And these other complaints?
 
Kapil Sibal: And I don't even know if these three to four requests were with respect to any government. You know...
 
Barkha Dutt: So these other complaints that have come from government agencies?
 
Kapil Sibal: It could come from individuals. It could come from the police. It could come from IB. I have no idea. But as far as we are concerned, my ministry, we have not taken any steps to gag anybody. Why would we? We are trying to evolve a mechanism through which such content is not...once it is uploaded on the site it can be dealt with. And people would be mad to say that there can be any pre-censorship of content that is not yet uploaded. How can anybody say that there will be pre-screening of something that is not loaded?
 
Barkha Dutt: So you never said there should be pre-screening?
 
Kapil Sibal: Can it be? I mean can any sane...
 
Barkha Dutt: It's not technically, it's not possible.
 
Kapil Sibal: Can any sane person say that before something comes on the net you must screen it? How can there be pre-screening?
 
Barkha Dutt: So the New York Times was incorrect according to you?
 
Kapil Sibal: You please tell me. How can there be any pre-screening? Can we pre-screen anything that comes on, if I come on television and say something, can you pre-screen me?
 
Barkha Dutt: No. This is a live show.
 
Kapil Sibal: Can any reasonable, sensible, sane man even suggest that?
 
Barkha Dutt: So what did you say in your last meeting? Why don't you set the record straight to Google and Facebook?
 
Kapil Sibal: I said in my last meeting on the 5th of December, you've made your position clear, that you've thrown your hands up saying that you can't do anything about it, because you are only a carrier. This content comes from other sources. And they said that if you complain we will look at it. Right? I said well, you've made your position clear. I don't think that such content, as you yourself say, should not be on the net. I don't think such content should be on the net. You've made your position clear. Now we will see what we have to do. That's all that happened.
 
Barkha Dutt: The IT rules were recently amended on the issue of whether third party hosts are liable for content on their site. For example, is YouTube liable for a pornographic video? Is Google liable for some of these hate, inflammatory images? Do you believe they are liable?
 
Kapil Sibal: Well, what about child pornography?
 
Barkha Dutt: It exists. It's rampant on the Internet.
 
Kapil Sibal: But it is blocked. By the sites themselves. Germany for example, there were sites with reference to the Holocaust. They were blocked by Germany. Then there were some disputes in France. Now people have started going to courts and courts are now developing the law, that wherever the impact of the site is, that country will have jurisdiction. So if you download something in India, courts in India will have jurisdiction. These laws have been so interpreted in many countries in Europe. So the law will progress. The law will...But it doesn't solve the problem. Because if you go to a court of law, you put this content in the public domain, it will have a much worse impact. Because then, once it is in the public domain, it can create a lot of problems. So what we wanted to do was, in a gentlemanly fashion, evolve a consensual procedure through which we can deal with something that they themselves said was not acceptable, according to their own standards.
 
Barkha Dutt: A number of online users have said Kapil Sibal is acting behind the shroud of secrecy. If you wanted to trigger a debate and have a public debate on how online abuse should be dealt with, it should have been a public debate. Not some sort of, you know, cat and mouse game that takes place behind the scenes till New York Times goes public with it.
 
Kapil Sibal: So this was a cat and mouse game that I was trying to evolve a procedure through consensus, without having this content to be released in the public domain. You think that was cat and mouse? I thought that was the best way to do it, because if you put this content in the public domain and have a public debate, you may create lots of problems, not just for yourself, but for others.
 
Barkha Dutt: Justice J S Verma, who is the media watchdog regulator for us in the electronic media, when I was interviewing him on the subject he said, he accepted the right to freedom of speech, and expression came with restrictions under Article 19. But he believed that the law of the land should be the final recourse, not pre-censorship, not censorship of any kind. So why not take recourse...
 
Kapil Sibal: But who has talked of pre-censorship?
 
Barkha Dutt: So I come back to my question. Why did you not use the law? The law of the land as it already exists?
 
Kapil Sibal: What is the law of the land? That they will not tell us the source? What do you mean by the law of the land?
 
Barkha Dutt: So are they not legally liable? Are they not legally liable? Are Google and Facebook not legally liable?
 
Kapil Sibal: That is what they are saying, that they are only carriers. Please understand Barkha. They are saying they are only carriers. So we can't sue carriers. They will not tell us who the source is. So we can't sue the source. So what's the law of the land that we are talking about?
 
Barkha Dutt: Are you saying Mr Sibal...
 
Kapil Sibal: If you sue the carrier they will say that look, how can you sue the carrier? Because we are not responsible for the content. So where will the law take us? So we have to evolve. Ultimately global standards will have to be evolved in issues like this. We have to evolve a consensual mechanism, so that everybody stands by the rules of the game, that some content, which is unacceptable in any civilized society, should not be uploaded.
 
Barkha Dutt: May I understand what you are saying? Are you saying that the laws of the land, as they currently are, do not actually cover the kind of cases that you have spoken about?
 
Kapil Sibal: No.
 
Barkha Dutt: That the law is, that there is an empty space there?
 
Kapil Sibal: There is. Because how do you, where do you sue? Now people, now judges are developing the law. You sue in the place where the impact is, over the effect of such content.
 
Barkha Dutt: Did you study how globally this is being dealt with?
 
Kapil Sibal: Yes. I've studied it, how globally this is being done. In fact many sites have been closed down, at the instance of countries, which are unacceptable. But, this is something that is evolving and the dialogue with them was part of the evolving process. It ended by an article in the New York Times, which sort of twisted the entire debate, because the debate had nothing to do with political sarcasm.
 
Barkha Dutt: So two-three clarifications from you that are important. You say you never asked for pre-censorship. Correct?
 
Kapil Sibal: I can't! I mean it would be foolish.
 
Barkha Dutt:
You say the current laws of the land don't empower...
 
Kapil Sibal:
I explained it to you why.
 
Barkha Dutt: Don't empower anybody to take such images off. But you do not believe censorship is the answer?
 
Kapil Sibal: Of course not.
 
Barkha Dutt:
So what is the answer?
 
Kapil Sibal: The answer is a mechanism that they must evolve on their own. Like the answer with your media.
 
Barkha Dutt: Self regulation.
 
Kapil Sibal: You do a lot of things which you yourself say are unacceptable. You are not self-regulated yourself so far. I hope you do.
 
Barkha Dutt: But we wouldn't accept government regulation in our space, because it becomes a pretext for gagging and silencing other voices of dissent.
 
Kapil Sibal:
Have you regulated? In fact your voice is heard louder than in any other jurisdiction in the world. Your voice...
 
Barkha Dutt: But the Government did want to regulate us. There is a Broadcast Bill. There is a Broadcast Bill that the media has rejected.
 
Kapil Sibal: The press in India, I believe, is more free, and happily so, than perhaps media anywhere in the world. Right? Which is a good thing. Which is a good thing, but we also hope that in times to come you yourself set a sense of balance as you move forward and this is exactly the thing we want from the social media as well.
 
Barkha Dutt: Kapil Sibal you are tech savvy. You are not a Luddite. You wrote books of poetry that, you know, were composed on SMS on your phone. You use your iPad. You are a gizmo person. A lot of people are turning around and saying that Kapil Sibal doesn't understand how the Internet works. And they're saying that basically, even if you want to take down these three-four images that are inflammatory, or let's say half a dozen or even 40, you are actually giving them more importance than they had, if they had just been left on the Internet for online communities to shun and ignore. That was the way to deal with it.
 
Kapil Sibal: No, no, no. I agree entirely with you. I could have ignored it and then had something happened, you are the ones who would have told me Mr Sibal, what were you doing sitting in that ministry? Didn't you know that such a thing would happen with these kinds of images on the net? And what answer would I have for you then?
 
Barkha Dutt: I must ask you though, free societies worry a little bit about religious sentiments being used as a pretext for censorship. And I am now talking about the non-virtual world. In our country we have many debates about books being banned, artists living in exile, movies sometimes, you know, censored, exactly in the name of religious sentiments. Is this a dangerous, slippery slope?
 
Kapil Sibal: I don't know what is dangerous and what is not dangerous. Ultimately we all will have to decide on our own terms what is dangerous and what is not. Is child pornography dangerous? Are other kinds of pornography dangerous? Is the kind of stuff that is on the social media networking deemed dangerous? I, you know, am not here to make a judgement. I decide for myself. Just as you decide for yourself. But when you are in a public office you have to be concerned about the impact of some of these things, which, according to them themselves, are not acceptable.
 
Barkha Dutt: Could you have handled this differently? Could you have triggered, maybe, a public debate among young people? Among online users? Maybe started a Twitter account, put an idea out there, got a volley of responses?
 
Kapil Sibal: Incidentally that would be much worse, because unless they see the content, what kind of debate would you have? And if you see the content it will trigger something else.
 
Barkha Dutt:
Are you considering releasing the images?
 
Kapil Sibal: No. No.
 
Barkha Dutt: Because?
 
Kapil Sibal: No I don't want to.
 
Barkha Dutt: You don't believe...
 
Kapil Sibal: I don't believe they should be anywhere.
 
Barkha Dutt: Now, you spoke about global references, how other countries have handled it. We had America wading into this controversy. We've had a State Department spokesperson saying, in general principles, in first principles, we do not believe in the regulation of the Internet. You've had Hillary Clinton's big speech over the last 24 hours saying that societies that try and regulate the net are thinking in a narrow way. You had an official of the American Embassy actually call up one of your officials. How do you see the American position on this?
 
Kapil Sibal:
No comments on any of that.
 
Barkha Dutt:
Why no comments?
 
Kapil Sibal: We need to do what we have to do, what we think is good for us. And we certainly don't want to...
 
Barkha Dutt:
Do you think that America has the locus standi to take a position?
 
Kapil Sibal: We don't want to regulate the media, either the social networking media or the media here. We have no intention of doing it. We have no intention of censoring. We have no intention of pre-screening. None of this is right, but at the same time I think you and I, as citizens of this country, have to be concerned with the kind of content that is floating around.
 
Barkha Dutt: So are you saying that there should be no censorship of the net but there needs to be some regulation? And it should be self-regulation?
 
Kapil Sibal: I didn't even say that.
 
Barkha Dutt: What have you said?  
 
Kapil Sibal
: I said you have to evolve standards. You have to evolve standards.
 
Barkha Dutt: Should they be evolved by users? Users themselves?
 
Kapil Sibal:
Based on community standards, no, no, no. Based on community standards you have to evolve standards that such kinds of things, now there will be difference of opinion there, which is fine. For example I told them, in a meeting, that you can evolve your standards and take away things that you think should not be on your net. But if we tell you to take something away, you have the freedom to say no, we don't agree with you, I think this should be on the net, which is fine.
 
Barkha Dutt: Going forward how are you going to deal with Google and Facebook? Given the impasse?
 
Kapil Sibal: On the 15th in fact I intend to have a round table and I will involve all you people in the media and say, for example, the laws of India are applicable to you. You can't have such content on your channel. Right? And you can't have such content on...
 
Barkha Dutt: But you are saying the laws are silent on the Internet.
 
Kapil Sibal: One second, one second. You can't have such content in the print media. So how is the social networking media any better than you? Is the law not applicable to everybody? To you. To the...
 
Barkha Dutt: But you're saying that there is a legal loophole here.  
 
Kapil Sibal: That's different, that's a matter of procedure. But as a matter of law, whether it is the social networking media, or it's NDTV 24X7, or it's The Hindu, or it's any other form of media, the law in India should apply to everybody.
 
Barkha Dutt
: Alright. As we wind down Kapil Sibal, a huge backlash against you on Twitter but also some sane questions. We've culled out some sane, but tough, questions and I just want to have a quick, brief, rapid fire round with you on these. First question. Why can't Kapil Sibal take action if he needs to, ex post facto, under existing laws? How does he explain the 255 requests to delete government/political criticism? Quick answer.
 
Kapil Sibal: Well I've already given you that answer. That the existing law doesn't allow us to even have the source against whom we have to go. And if that source is outside the jurisdiction of India, then how do we go and where do we go?
 
Barkha Dutt:
Hasn't the recent IT Act been amended to make third party users liable for their content?
 
Kapil Sibal: That's the point. Now that's the raging controversy. If we make third party users responsible then you will say that we are trying to regulate. Those who are not responsible...
 
Barkha Dutt: Under the law currently are they liable? Should they be liable?
 
Kapil Sibal:
We, ultimately they will have to be if they do not evolve mechanisms on their own. But as far as we are concerned, we want mechanisms to be evolved, a consensus to be evolved, so that they can regulate themselves. But if they don't, then we will have to put prescriptions of law in place and make sure that we go forward.
 
Barkha Dutt
: Second question is related. Why doesn't Kapil Sibal trust the existing laws of the land?
 
Kapil Sibal: As I told you. They won't work because we don't know the source. These very social networking sites will not tell us who put that content on the net. They've done it with terrorists. Even with a terrorist, it's like this. I will give you an example. There is a highway. There is a terrorist on the highway. Now, the man who manages the highway knows that there is a terrorist but he says I can't do anything about it.
 
Barkha Dutt: But he can take it off.
 
Kapil Sibal: That's the point!
 
Barkha Dutt: Well, legally. Through existing laws.
 
Kapil Sibal: You have answered it. You have answered the question.
 
Barkha Dutt
: Through existing laws. But through existing laws.
 
Kapil Sibal: Yes, I agree. In other words if we know there is a terrorist...
 
Barkha Dutt: So why don't you use those?
 
Kapil Sibal: Because he won't tell us who the terrorist is! He won't tell us the source.
 
Barkha Dutt: So you don't believe that the existing law of the land applies to third party users right now?
 
Kapil Sibal: I didn't say it doesn't. I say if we don't know the source, how do we deal with them? And if we deal with the intermediaries, they will say that we are not responsible.
 
Barkha Dutt: Alright, next question.
 
Kapil Sibal:
And in the meantime the content will be there, and we don't want that content to be there.
 
Barkha Dutt:
Next question. When we have child pornography, beastiality, rape videos, and this kind of content freely available on the Internet. Is defamatory content so important so as to be removed?
 
Kapil Sibal:
This has nothing to do with defamation. As I said this is nothing to do with defamation. This is pornographic. This itself is pornographic and I have shown you the images. This is pornographic. This is demeaning. This is degrading. This is vulgar. This is offensive.
 
Barkha Dutt: This is not about defamation?
 
Kapil Sibal: This is nothing to do with defamation. If it is something to do with defamation, then the person who is defamed will take care of himself, if he gets the source.
 
Barkha Dutt: One message of support in eight tough questions. Tell Kapil Sibal there are people who do support his idea. Pages like 'We hate India' are online. After repeated reporting to Facebook they have not been taken down. But this is a subjective area, because, for example, there are many people who may say 'I hate Barkha Dutt', 'I hate Kapil Sibal', 'I hate Sonia Gandhi', whoever, the President of India.
 
Kapil Sibal: Fine. Fine.
 
Barkha Dutt: People would say free speech, public figures. Deal with it.
 
Kapil Sibal: But who has said anything to the contrary? I mean I said...
 
Barkha Dutt: You wouldn't take down a page like that?
 
Kapil Sibal:
These people have said we hate Kapil Sibal right? Have I...
 
Barkha Dutt: I've got a group like that also.
 
Kapil Sibal:
Have I moved against them?
 
Barkha Dutt: You wouldn't?
 
Kapil Sibal: Have I? Have I sent a notice to anybody? I mean there are all kinds of statements being made. One newspaper published just the opposite of what I said at the press conference. I didn't go after them.
 
Barkha Dutt: So you do think that public figures need to take a lot in their stride.
 
Kapil Sibal: Of course. Public figures will get public criticism and they should be tolerant enough to take it. But this is nothing to do with either defamation of public figures or public criticism. This is downright pornographic.
 
Barkha Dutt: Alright, next question. What according to Kapil Sibal are the problems in legal recourse for online abuse? With numerous websites, a multiplicity of websites, why is he asking only Facebook and Google to help?
 
Kapil Sibal: No, no. We're talking about all websites. All websites. Not just Facebook and Google. There are other websites also that are part of the stuff that I gave you.
 
Barkha Dutt: And is there any existing legal recourse for online abuse?
 
Kapil Sibal: I told you. I have answered that question already.
 
Barkha Dutt:
You know a lot of them have their own terms where you can report for abuse, you can report for spam.
 
Kapil Sibal: Yes, but they won't see. Of these requests, I mean, when we mentioned all this to the social networking sites, have they removed any of this? It's all there. And it's unacceptable.
 
Barkha Dutt: You've had no luck? Nothing has been taken off?  
 
Kapil Sibal: Have they removed it? Have they removed it? They have not removed it.
 
Barkha Dutt: How do they explain to you why they can't take it off?
 
Kapil Sibal: They say we are not responsible, and we judge this content with reference to American standards. Then I told them that, even under American law, community standards differ from place to place even in America. So ultimately you will have to apply the community standards where the content is released, or content can be accessed.
 
Barkha Dutt
: What did you think of the phone call from the American Embassy to an official in your ministry?
 
Kapil Sibal: I think we let it pass. These are things that we should not be bothered about.
 
Barkha Dutt: But an irritant? An irritant?
 
Kapil Sibal: India is too big, too strong a country, to be bothered by little things like this.
 
Barkha Dutt: Alright, next question. Please ask Kapil Sibal if he considered the consequences of denting India's image, as a democracy, with a robust and long tradition of free speech.
 
Kapil Sibal: Well, I feel...
 
Barkha Dutt: Are you? I mean, we are being compared to China!
 
Kapil Sibal: I think the gentleman should know that we perhaps are a more robust democracy than any other democracy in the world...
 
Barkha Dutt: We're being compared to China right now.
 
Kapil Sibal: And we will remain so. We will remain so.
 
Barkha Dutt: Why are we being compared to China?
 
Kapil Sibal: And those who compare us to China obviously have a vision which needs to be really taken care of.
 
Barkha Dutt: Next question. Jan Lokpal and Anna Hazare are trending online constantly. Is it the popularity of such platforms that scares the Government ala the Egypt Revolution?
 
Kapil Sibal:
  This is again, you know, this is a spin on everything that you do. You try and set something right, you go back to Anna Hazare or you go back to defamation and political issues because you have no answers. You have no answers for the content that I gave you, so you make all types of other arguments to support your case. The fact is you cannot support this case. Any sane man looking at that content will say this is reprehensible, degrading, demeaning, vulgar, obscene, pornographic.
 
Barkha Dutt:
Last question. What is on Kapil Sibal's ban list? Is it slander? Is it libel? Because both of those are covered by law. Or is it the attack on community and religious sentiments, or is it all three?
 
Kapil Sibal: Well, it's basically an attack on community and religious sentiments which is obscene, vulgar, pornographic.
 
Barkha Dutt: I want to ask you in conclusion because we have some important statements from you. You're ruling out pre-screening, you are ruling out censorship, you are ruling out political censorship. You are saying it is essentially about offending the sentiments and...
 
Kapil Sibal: Sensibilities.
 
Barkha Dutt: Sensibilities of religious communities. What happens next?
 
Kapil Sibal: Well, we'll see, on the 15th, this is business...
 
Barkha Dutt:
An ongoing debate.
 
Kapil Sibal: This is business in progress. We will evolve a consensus and if the sites still do not accept it we will have to then do something about it. This much is certain, that we should not allow such content to be in the public domain.
 
Barkha Dutt: Would you consider going online, getting yourself a Twitter account and dealing with your critics face to face?
 
Kapil Sibal: No, no. I have enough trouble without having a Twitter account.
 
Barkha Dutt:
Well, at least you keep your sense of humour intact. Kapil Sibal, thank you very much for those clarifications. Kapil Sibal there, making it clear that there will be no political censorship. Will the controversy now die down? We'll look on Twitter and Facebook to see some of the comments to this interview.
 

Story First Published: December 24, 2011 12:35 IST

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