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OTTs showing pornography at times: Supreme Court

The apex court backed monitoring of content, asking the govt to place before it within a day the recent rules regulating such video-streaming services
A bench of Justices Bhushan and R. Subhash Reddy agreed to examine the anticipatory bail plea of Aparna Purohit, Amazon Prime Video’s India head, over the screening of the web series Tandav, which allegedly depicts Hindu gods in a disrespectful manner
A bench of Justices Bhushan and R. Subhash Reddy agreed to examine the anticipatory bail plea of Aparna Purohit, Amazon Prime Video’s India head, over the screening of the web series Tandav, which allegedly depicts Hindu gods in a disrespectful manner
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Our Legal Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 05.03.21, 12:27 AM

The Supreme Court on Thursday said that some OTT platforms were screening pornography and backed monitoring of content, asking the government to place before it within a day the recent rules regulating such video-streaming services.

“Mr Mehta, please submit the regulations on OTT platforms. We are of the view that there should be some screening of OTT content. At times, they are showing pornography too. We are of the view that some screening should take place. In fact some platforms even show pornography,” Justice Ashok Bhushan told solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre.

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A bench of Justices Bhushan and R. Subhash Reddy agreed to examine the anticipatory bail plea of Aparna Purohit, Amazon Prime Video’s India head, over the screening of the web series Tandav, which allegedly depicts Hindu gods in a disrespectful manner.

Purohit has moved the apex court against an Allahabad High Court order dated February 25 rejecting her anticipatory bail plea as she feared arrest by Uttar Pradesh police over multiple FIRs registered against her and some of the principal actors of the series for hurting religious sentiments.

Tandav also has episodes that refer to the farmers’ protest and violence on the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus, which too have angered Right-wing organisations.

When the Supreme Court asked Mehta about the OTT platforms, the solicitor-general replied: “My Lords, I agree these days they are also showing a lot of filthy things with abuses too.”

The bench said: “These days traditional film viewing has become obsolete. People watching cinema on the Internet has become very common. So our question is, should these contents be screened?”

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Purohit, said the issue before the court was not the new OTT guidelines framed by the Centre but that of a citizen’s fundamental right to freedom of speech.

Purohit is facing charges under IPC Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place, etc), 295 (injuring or defiling places of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religious beliefs), and 505(1) and (2) (statements conducive to public mischief). These apart, cases under the Information Technology Act have been registered against her.

Rohatgi said the complainants were “publicity seekers”.

“These are all publicity seekers who keep filing cases all over India. Look at the FIR and what’s happening. If you want to watch this web series, you have to pay,” he said.

“But it’s a question of creating a balance,” Justice Bhushan said.

The court adjourned the matter to Friday to enable the Centre to place before the bench the new guidelines on OTT platforms.



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