The Supreme Court on Thursday made it amply clear to OTT (over-the-top) platforms like Netflix and Amazon that it is in favour of “screening” content shown by them. It said some of the films hosted by the platform were pornographic.
“Traditional film viewing has become extinct. Now films and web series are viewed by the public on these platforms. Should there not be some screening? We feel there should be some screening... There is pornography on some films,” Justice Ashok Bhushan, leading a Bench, also comprising Justice R. Subhash Reddy, observed.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Amazon producer Aparna Purohit’s bail , said this “was not about pornography but the right to freedom of expression”.
‘Balance has to be struck’
“But a balance has to be struck,” Justice Bhushan retorted.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the content included “filthy abuses”.
The hearing was based on a plea by Ms. Purohit, Amazon Prime's commercial head, against the Allahabad High Court decision to deny her pre-arrest bail in connection with the probe into Tandav , a web series hosted by the platform. The FIR said the series ridiculed Hindu gods and the country’s political power corridors.
Justice Bhushan said the court wanted to consider Ms. Purohit’s case in the light of the new guidelines notified by the government to hold social media and OTT platforms accountable for their content.
Hearing on Friday
The Bench asked the guidelines to be placed on record and scheduled a hearing for March 5.
The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules of 2021 requires the streaming platforms to comply with a new three-tier self-regulatory complaint redressal system.
It also includes an independent self-regulatory body headed by a retired high court or Supreme Court judge, which will decide on matters related to content.
The guidelines also mandates the formation of an inter-departmental committee in the Information Ministry to oversee the OTT platforms.
Mr. Rohatgi said the case against Ms. Purohit was “shocking”. The OTT platforms were like cinema halls where one had to pay to view a film.
Mr. Rohatgi said the new guidelines were “like the Censor Board” but they would come into operation “after some time”.
“This lady [Purohit] is only an employee of a company. The company is not an accused... These cases are filed by publicity seekers,” Mr. Rohatgi argued.
“We are clearly of the view that there should be screening. Let us see the guidelines... We will take it up tomorrow,” Justice Bhushan said, concluding the virtual hearing.