- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 2004

NEW DELHI — Officials in India’s technology industry expressed anger over the jailing of the chief executive of EBay’s Indian subsidiary because of the online sale of a sex video involving teenagers. The U.S. State Department also has made inquiries about the case.

A 17-year-old boy who videotaped himself and his girlfriend in an act of oral sex was arrested Sunday night after a weeklong hunt. He used his camera-fitted mobile phone and transmitted the images to his friends, police said.

Police think the boy’s arrest will help them track how the video clip reached its seller, an engineering student in an eastern Indian city who was arrested a week ago.

Avnish Bajaj, the chief executive officer of Baazee.com — India’s most popular shopping portal, now owned by California-based EBay Inc. — was arrested Friday in connection with the sale of the images.

Under Indian law, all sex videos are considered obscene.

The U.S. company said it was “outraged” by the police action, saying the sale took place without the knowledge of company officials. The seller violated the company’s policies, and Baazee.com took appropriate action in removing the auction from its site as soon as it became aware of it, the company said.

Mr. Bajaj on Saturday was denied bail. A U.S. consular official attended the court hearing, a statement from the U.S. Embassy said.

“The U.S. Embassy is following this case very closely. There is high-level interest in Washington regarding the case,” the statement said.

A statement from EBay said: “The video clip itself was not shown on the site; the seller offered to e-mail the clip to the buyer directly. The listing violated Baazee.com’s policies and user agreement and was removed from the site once it was discovered.”

Mr. Bajaj was arrested after he voluntarily traveled to New Delhi to cooperate with the police investigating the case, EBay said, calling his arrest “unexpected and completely unwarranted.”

Industry officials and legal observers in India also deplored the arrest and demanded that the government clarify the country’s Information Technology Act.

Police said Friday that Mr. Bajaj was arrested under the 2000 IT Act that declares “publishing, transmitting, or causing to publish any information in electronic form, which is obscene,” as a criminal offense.

However, the law is ambiguous about who should be held responsible for such offenses.

According to the law, a network service provider or a Web site manager can’t be held responsible for an electronic offense if he acted diligently to prevent it after being informed about the offense, said Pawan Duggal, a specialist on cyber-laws.

But the provisions have not been clearly spelled out in the IT Act, leaving room for varying interpretations, Mr. Duggal said.

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