Shows on OTT platforms should be screened; some series have pornography, says SC

THE Supreme Court Thursday observed that there should be some screening of shows run on Over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

A bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan added that pornography was also shown on some web series.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh Government weighed in and said “filthy abuses are shown”.

The court made these observations while hearing a plea filed by the head of Amazon Prime Video’s India Originals, Aparna Purohit, against the rejection of her anticipatory bail application by the Allahabad High Court.

The bench which also had Justice R Subhash Reddy said it would like to go through the new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 which inter-alia seeks to regulate content on OTT platforms.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi, for Purohit, submitted that complaints against web series were being filed by publicity seekers. One has to pay to watch a series on OTT platforms; they are not free, he pointed out.

Rohtagi added the issue here was of freedom of speech and expression and while he had no issue with the new regulations they did not help in the present case.

The bench said it would hear the case tomorrow after going through the 2021 Rules on OTT platforms.

Purohit is facing multiple FIRs by the Noida police for the alleged derogatory depiction of Hindu deities in the web series, Tandav.

The High Court had justified the rejection on the grounds that a case had been fully made out against Purohit under sections 295-A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.), 153-A(b) [Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony] and 153-A(b), 505(1)(b) and 505(2) [Statements conducing to public mischief] of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

A single-judge bench of Justice Siddharth said the sentiments of the majority community had been hurt by the display of the characters of their faith in a disrespectful manner even as an attempt had been made to widen the gap between higher castes and the scheduled castes, when the objective of the state was to bridge the gap between the different castes and communities and make the country a united force socially, communally and politically.

“Western filmmakers have refrained from ridiculing Lord Jesus or the Prophet but Hindi filmmakers have done this repeatedly and are still doing this most unabashedly with Hindu Gods and Goddesses,” the judge opined.