Source: Bloomberg Quint.

Tandav case: SC grants Amazon Prime’s Aparna Purohit protection from arrest; says new rules regulating OTT content toothless, requires legislation

THE Supreme Court Friday termed the Centre’s rules for regulating over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, “toothless”.

A bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan said there was no provision for prosecution in the rules, to which Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta, submitted that he would place the draft rules before the court.

“You can’t control content without legislation”, the bench said.

The bench, however, asked Mehta to place on record further steps the government plans to take, or the law to control the content on OTT platforms.

It was referring to the Centre’s “Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021” released last week to regulate OTT (Over-the-Top) streaming, digital news, and social media platforms with provisions to moderate and block objectionable or inappropriate content.

These observations were made by the bench, comprising also of Justice Subhash Reddy, 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 court granted Purohit protection from arrest, subject to her joining the investigation relating to an FIR filed by the Noida police in connection with the Tandav web series.

It also impleaded the Central Government in the matter.

The High Court had justified the rejection of anticipatory bail 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.

Eariler, crew members of the web series had approached the Supreme Court against the multiple FIRs against them in various states. The top court while refusing to grant them interim protection, asked them to approach the high courts where the FIRs had been filed for relief.