Press Trust of india

Some over-the-top OTT platforms at times show pornographic contents, says SC, asks Centre to place regulations

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New Delhi: Some over-the-top (OTT) platforms at times show pornographic contents and there should be a mechanism to screen such programmes, the Supreme Court observed on Thursday and asked the Centre to place its guidelines on regulating social media.

The apex court also fixed on Friday the hearing on the appeal appeal of Amazon Prime Video’s India head Aparna Purohit against the Allahabad High Court order rejecting her anticipatory bail in connection with FIRs lodged over web series ‘Tandav’.

“We are of the view that some screening of OTT content should take place. A balance has to be struck as some OTT platforms are also showing pornographic materials on their platforms,” a bench comprising justices Ashok Bhushan and R S Reddy said.

During the brief hearing conducted through video conferencing, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Purohit, termed the FIRs against her as “shocking” saying that this woman is an employee of Amazon and she is neither a producer nor an actor but still she has been made an accused in around 10 cases relating to the web series across the country.

“These are all publicity seekers who have been filing cases all over India. Look at the FIR, look at what is happening. If you want to watch this web series, you have to pay to see this”,  the senior lawyer said.

The bench said now, traditional film viewing has become “obsolete”, but for those movies there is a censor board.

“Our query is whether some screening is necessary or not, because you watch anything in your home like a cinema halls,” the bench observed.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said, “they are showing filthy things with abuses too”.

Mehta said he would be placing on records the Information Technology (Guidelines for intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

Rohatgi on the other hand said the case against Purohit cannot be based on the regulation which is yet to come in force.

Tandav, a nine-episode political thriller starring Bollywood A-listers Saif Ali Khan, Dimple Kapadia and Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, started streaming recently.

Purohit has been accused of inappropriate depiction of Uttar Pradesh police personnel, Hindu deities and an adverse portrayal of a character playing the prime minister in the web series.

Earlier, the apex court, on January 27, had declined to grant interim protection from any coercive action to Ali Abbas Zafar, Director of the web series, Purohit, producer Himanshu Mehra, the show’s writer Gaurav Solanki and actor Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub.

It had said that they may seek bail from courts concerned in the FIRs lodged in connection with the web series.

Now, Purohit has appealed to the top court against the Allahabad High Court’s February 25 order declining anticipatory bail to her.

A single judge bench of the High Court had said that Purohit had not been “vigilant and has acted irresponsibly making her open to criminal prosecution in permitting streaming of a movie which is against the fundamental rights of the majority of citizens of this country and therefore, her fundamental right of life and liberty cannot be protected by grant of anticipatory bail to her in the exercise of discretionary powers of this court.”

While rejecting the plea, the high court had said that the applicant was earlier granted interim protection from arrest by another bench in a similar case but she was not cooperating with the investigation.

The high court had observed, “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.”

“This tendency on the part of the Hindi film industry is growing and if not curbed in time, it may have disastrous consequences for the Indian social, religious and communal order,” the high court had observed.

On January 19, 2021, an FIR was lodged on the complaint of one Balbir Azad of Raunija village under Rabupura police station of Greater Noida.

In the complaint, Azad alleged that the show depicted Uttar Pradesh and its police in a poor light.

The complaint further alleged that the web series had deliberately denigrated Hindu gods and goddesses.

Several other FIRs have also been lodged in states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Bihar and Delhi.

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