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December 20, 2004 2:10 PM   Subscribe

CEO of eBay's Indian company arrested for an item offered up for sale on his site. Avnish Bajaj, the CEO of baazee.com, an Indian auction site purchased by eBay in June 2004, was arrested on Friday while assisting in the investigation into the attempted sale of pornography by a user on the auction site, and charged with violating the 2000 India IT Act. Bajaj was arrested even though he was not involved in the sale, had it cancelled as soon as it was found, and the people involved had already been arrested.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow (22 comments total)
That's screwed up. I suppose this is what could happen in the US if we let our anti-porn laws creep further along -- where someone barely related to a sale that did everything they could to stop it and end it could be arrested.
posted by mathowie at 2:18 PM on December 20, 2004

Corporate hostage.
posted by FormlessOne at 2:20 PM on December 20, 2004

So they'll arrest the CEO of an auction site, but the Union Carbide boss gets a free pass?
posted by bshort at 2:24 PM on December 20, 2004

I just got back from Mumbai last night, and was surprised, while there, to see this story as front page full cap headlines several days in a row.

One thing to keep in mind, I think, is that the imagery in question doesn't really have the same context as it does in the US. A billion more people watch Bollywood movies than Hollywood movies, but none of those Bollywood films have ever even shown a simple kiss. Within that context, these images were really transgressive. An MMS of a famous couple kissing also made headlines, and opened up some surprisingly vicious debates over Public Displays of Affection.

None of which is to justify any legal or moral basis for arresting Bajaj, it's just to say that you have to consider the cultural weight of the goods in question.
posted by cloudscratcher at 2:26 PM on December 20, 2004

So they'll arrest the CEO of an auction site, but the Union Carbide boss gets a free pass?

Actually, Warren Anderson is under indictment in India, and he has been declared by the Indian Supreme Court to be an "absconder from justice", along with the corporation itself. An extradition request was filed with the U.S. Government in 2003; it was denied by the Bush administration last July.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:46 PM on December 20, 2004

OTOH, this could be a situation more influenced by politics than applicable law and the arrest made to garner headlines (which it's done, worldwide) for someone's campaign scrapbook. IANAL in India but I'm guessing that an arrest, like here in the USA, does not mean the same as prison, convicction or even a trial.
posted by billsaysthis at 2:53 PM on December 20, 2004

I didn't realized that Christian fundamentalists had infiltrated the Indian judiciary. Why not arrest the Internet itself? Better yet, why not arrest that turtle on whose back this corrupt little planet rests?

Hopefully, they'll let him out soon. They won't be able to stand the pressure from Bangalore and the US State Dept. for long.
posted by aliendolphin at 2:55 PM on December 20, 2004

Cloudscratcher is spot on about the differences between India's cultural standards & those of the West. When they held the Miss Universe competition in Bangalore a few years ago, the swimsuit part had to be held in the Seychelles, because Indian women were threatening to immolate themselves to prevent this attack on their cultural norms regarding sexuality, nudity etc. Miss Universe was threatening enough, even in a comparatively Western city like Bangalore, but swimsuits just took the whole thing way too far beyond the pale.

(self-immolation is a typically Indian form of protest, alongside hunger strikes)

Likewise, I heard that Rupert Murdoch can expect to be arrested if ever he sets foot on Indian soil, because his satellite Star TV network distributes "pornography", in the form of shows like Baywatch.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:11 PM on December 20, 2004

Isn't this kinda like the US RAVE act law that they passed...?

Where a owner of a buisiness or property gets arrested if anyone at the rave is caught with any drugs?

I think that this is a slippery slope to charge owners of property or internet sites with the wrongdoings of "Users" beyond their control.

Individuals should be responsible, especially when the pool of "Users" in your system or buisiness is, in large part, unregulated.

** goes back to buying illegal knives on Ebay. **
posted by Balisong at 3:23 PM on December 20, 2004

I would not be surprised if the objective here is to extort a bribe from Bajaj - I am assuming that he is a member of *the* Bajaj family, which pretty much owns India.

Heh - anybody familiar with subcontinental oddities might enjoy this quote from the Times of India:

"In judicial custody till December 24, Bajaj is in Jail No 3 because that's the allotted jail for prisoners whose names start with alphabets A, B, C, D, E, G, H, I, L, V or W"
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:23 PM on December 20, 2004

cloudscratcher: One thing to keep in mind, I think, is that the imagery in question doesn't really have the same context as it does in the US. A billion more people watch Bollywood movies than Hollywood movies, but none of those Bollywood films have ever even shown a simple kiss.

Your core point is correct, but I should point out two things: 1)A billion people do NOT watch Bollywood movies. A billion+ is simply the population of India. South India has its own cinema. They tend to be proud of their own languages and (pretend to) disdain Hindi. I also doubt many of the North Easterns watch Hindi films regularly. Finally, I doubt the bulk of the population in the rural areas watch a lot of film.
2)Kissing was taboo. Even then, there were a few movies that showed it, but only heads locking. Nowadays, it's a lot more accepted. I just saw it in a new movie, yesterday.

UbuRoivas: Re: the Miss Universe thing, such hostile attitude is more politically incited and less genuine outrage. The opposition parties and other politicos are always looking for some "real" problems to score points off. To my knowledge, the CEO is not related to the Bajaj family. It is a not uncommon surname.
posted by Gyan at 3:27 PM on December 20, 2004

I didn't realized that Christian fundamentalists had infiltrated the Indian judiciary.

aliendolphin, did you mean that to be funny? Because it's just stupid.

On the other hand, it is impressive that you managed to show disrespect for a) Christians and b) Indians (who are nearly all either Hindu or Muslim) in one brief post. Talk about insult bang-for-the-buck--you've managed to pack scorn for more than 2 billion people into ten words!
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:53 PM on December 20, 2004

Also, given that this was footage of "high school classmates having sex" it might be considered "child pornography" in the US (I didn't have the patience to read the NYT links, so if all of those involved were over 18, my apologies).

If it was considered "child pornography", then I can definitely imagine something similar happening in the US. Check out this case, for example.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:57 PM on December 20, 2004

odinsdream: As mentioned in the FPP, Bajaj supposedly violated the current Indian IT Act. It's not exactly very nuanced, when it comes to this kind of thing.
posted by Gyan at 4:04 PM on December 20, 2004

break the law, do the time.
posted by bakiwop at 4:21 PM on December 20, 2004

odinsdream, I think this is going to wind up being a "test case". Bajaj is fortunate to have eBay's resources on his side.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:23 PM on December 20, 2004

odinsdream: In theory, yes. The _only_ reason there's all this brouhaha, is because the 17-yr old guy imprudently video-messaged his friends from his cellphone. Being school kids, the video spread pyramidically. The authorities had to do something.
posted by Gyan at 4:27 PM on December 20, 2004

Gyan: Thanks for the clarification - an Indian colleague at work also confirmed that Bajaj is quite a common name.

True about the protests against Miss Universe being politically motivated...it seems that since the Indian market was opened to greater foreign influence in the early nineties, there has been a corresponding Hindu fundamentalist backlash, with the rise of the BJP and RSSS, Ayodhya etc as examples. This may be another example of such a backlash, at least in part. I mean, pornography must have been very underground in the past, and traditionalists would be feeling somewhat threatened by the opportunities for access to pornography offered by the internet...?

(aside, tangentially related to bollywood v hollywood: always feel annoyed when i hear of people like madonna or michael jackson referred to as the biggest-selling recording artists in history. *everybody* knows that lata mangeshkar (sp?) has outsold them 100-to-1, even if 99% of sales were bootleg copies...)
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:27 PM on December 20, 2004

Shedevil, thanks, next time I'll try to do it in five words and include the remaining four billion. Perhaps an insult haiku? I guess you took the turtle story seriously :)

Bajaj will probably be out on bail today. HBS network must be hard at work on his behalf.
posted by aliendolphin at 7:21 PM on December 20, 2004

aliendolphin, I think you should instead concentrate on summing up your scorn for all of humanity in one six-letter word (a la E.B. White's "Irtnog").

And then I can needlepoint it on a pillow for you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:20 PM on December 20, 2004

Thomas Friedman had a special a few months back that covered the backlash in a short but interesting way.
posted by billsaysthis at 8:59 PM on December 20, 2004

Given that sex turns even the most sensible people into headstrong idiots, it's no surpise that it does far worse to legislators.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:31 AM on December 21, 2004

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