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HC grants bail to Baazee.com CEO — IT industry expresses relief

22-December-2004
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HC grants bail to Baazee.com CEO — IT industry expresses relief

The Delhi High Court today granted bail to the Baazee.com CEO, Mr Avnish Bajaj, who was arrested in connection with the case involving the sale of a sexually explicit clip on the auction site.

"The High Court has granted bail to the CEO of Baazee.com. Mr Bajaj has been asked to furnish two sureties of Rs 1 lakh each and has been directed to join the investigation and not leave the country without the court's permission," Mr Rajiv K. Luthra, managing partner of Luthra and Luthra Law Offices, which represented Mr Bajaj, said after the order was pronounced by Mr Justice Vikramjit Sen.

Mr Bajaj had moved the bail application in the HC after the trial court rejected his plea on December 18 and remanded him in judicial custody till December 24.

Mr Bajaj's arrest last week on charges that the auction site listed for sale a sexually explicit clip of a school student and his classmate had raised a debate in the industry and the legal community.

Mr Bajaj was detained under Section 67 of the IT Act and Section 292 and 294 of the Indian Penal Code, on charges of transmitting and selling obscene and pornographic material.

On the expected lines, IT industry today hailed the grant of bail. "We are happy that he has been granted bail," Mr Kiran Karnik, Nasscom President, told Business Line. Stating that the case has raised some aspects of law, Mr Karnik said the problem was the fact that the CEO of the auction site was "arrested" in this case.

Terming Mr Bajaj's arrest as "harassment," Mr V. Ramani, Chairman of Internet and Online Association, said, "there is a sigh of relief in the industry now."

While Mr Ramani admitted that checks and balances were essential to guard against sale of obscene material, he pointed out that material was immediately taken off by the portal upon realisation.

"There are 80,000 items every day being put on sale and there are measures like the fact that sites check for keywords," he said. He agreed that the IT Act needed an amendment in line with international laws.

"For instance, a section of the IT Act says that the onus is on the person to prove that he had no knowledge of the material. This I feel is a grey area. In the US, the law has to prove that the Web site had adequate notice to remove the offending material, but did not comply," he pointed out.

Meanwhile, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) today expressed concern over the haste undertaken in arresting the CEO of Baazee.com while emphasising that the episode had underlined a need for significant reform in the IT Act.

Mr Mahendra K. Sanghi, President of Assocham, said that need of the hour was to modify the Act in a manner so that a clear distinction was established between offenders and victims.

"The company took the item off the site as soon as they were notified by the community and also suspended the seller from the marketplace. To that extent it seems that the company acted judiciously and swiftly," he added.

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