Supreme Court says new rules to regulate OTT platforms lack teeth

An activst takes part in a protest against the Amazon web series ‘Tandav’, in Mumbai.   | Photo Credit: AFP


The Supreme Court on Friday said the government’s new rules to regulate OTT (over-the-top) platforms lacked teeth to punish violators or to screen offensive content even as it protected Amazon Prime Video India Commercial head Aparna Purohit from arrest in the ‘Tandav’ web series row.

“We went through your Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules of 2021... these are merely guidelines. There is no provision for punishment or fine... What is the mechanism to control it [content]” Justice Ashok Bhushan, heading a Bench, asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

Supreme Court says new rules to regulate OTT platforms lack teeth

Ready to submit new draft: SG

Mr. Mehta agreed to consider drafting new regulations or even legislation to address the concern raised by the court about OTT platforms. “We can come out with it... We can come out with a draft and place it before the court,” he stated.

The court recorded in its order that the new rules notified days back were “more in the nature of guidelines” and there was “no effective mechanism for screening or to take appropriate action” against violators.

The court said the assurance given by Mr. Mehta to it that the government would consider taking “appropriate steps” for any “further regulations/legislation” as seen as fit. The Bench ordered that the regulations/legislation, once done, should be placed before the court.

During the hearing, Amazon, represented by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, complained about an oral remark made by Justice Bhushan that some of the films featured on OTT platforms had pornographic content. Mr. Rohatgi said the remark had been picked up by the media and bandied about. “Amazon does not show pornography,” he said.

‘No pornography’

Mr. Mehta intervened to say that Justice Bhushan did not mean “pornography” literally, but meant that some content was “almost pornographic”.

“But Mr. Mehta, I can show you 10,000 movies on Amazon, there is no pornography in any of them. I myself watch these movies in the evenings... these are great movies,” Mr. Rohatgi exclaimed.

Justice Bhushan intervened, saying the court never meant that the movies shown were not great. “We are not saying great movies are not shown...” he remarked.

Turning to the specific case of Ms. Purohit, Mr. Rohatgi submitted that she was only an employee and was ready to cooperate with the investigation. He submitted that two offending scenes in ‘Tandav’ have already been removed.

The court issued notice on her plea for bail and directed that the police should not arrest her as long as she cooperates with the investigation into complaints that the web series ridicules Hindu gods and the country’s political power corridors.

Ms. Purohit had approached the apex court against the Allahabad High Court decision to deny her anticipatory bail.

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Printable version | Apr 23, 2021 5:56:56 AM |

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