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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 08 March, 2021

  • 5 Min Read

Judicial overreach-on OTT Rules

Judicial overreach-on OTT Rules

Introduction

  • Allahabad High Court denied Aparna Purohit, India Commercial Head of the content streaming platform, the relief with a sweeping declaration that some offending scenes on a new series, constituted punishable offences.

Overreach of ‘soft-touch monitoring’

The Court went through the recently notified rules for digital media and intermediaries and observed that these lacked teeth.

  • It is quite unusual that a constitutional court should push for more stringent rules after finding that the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, did not provide for punishment and fine.
  • Courts generally examine the validity of such curbs on free speech and decide whether they are reasonable or too restrictive.
    • The new rules are essentially restrictions on free speech and expression through digital media.
  • It is unusual that the apex court should seek to go beyond what the executive describes as ‘soft-touch monitoring’, and press for inclusion of punishment clauses.
  • The Court seems to be concerned about obscenity and uncensored content on streaming services, the ostensible reason for its incursion into regulatory territory, when there was no challenge to the new rules before it.
  • While refusing pre-arrest bail, the High Court has made an unusual claim that the title ‘Tandav’ itself could hurt the sentiments of a majority of Indians because it is associated with Lord Shiva.
    • It has observed that alluding to Lord Ram gaining popularity on social media is a reference to the Ayodhya dispute, and, therefore, offensive.
  • It has a sweeping claim that the Hindi film industry, in contrast to its southern counterparts, was generally disrespectful to the Hindu religion.

Conclusion

  • It would be unfortunate if the judiciary lets itself be seen as departing from its record of protecting individuals harassed by those claiming that their religious or cultural sentiments have been hurt by some work of art, or even remarks or gestures by celebrities.

Source: TH


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