SC asks govt to bring law to regulate content on OTT platforms
08 March 2021
The Supreme Court has asked the central government to come up with a legislation to regulate content on social media and OTT (Over-The-Top) platforms instead of issuing guidelines that cannot be enforced.
The court held that the so-called regulations framed by the government last month are only guidelines and are not enough to make social media and OTT platforms accountable for the content they carried.
The SC had asked the centre to submit regulations governing content on OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon etc that operate from outside the country. The SC direction followed petitions filed against Amazon for vulgar display of Hindu religion and its icons in its serial.
In February, the centre announce the framing of rules to make social media and OTT platforms accountable for the content they carried. The rules, finalised after elaborate consultations with the public and stakeholders as well as the ministries of electronics and information technology and information and broadcasting, however, were intended only to bring about a harmonious, soft-touch oversight mechanism in relation to social media platform as well as digital media and OTT platforms etc.
These rules for OTT platforms don't allow pre-screening or punitive action, nor can these be strictly implemented.
The Supreme Court held that the union government's 5 February notification on IT intermediary rules and other guidelines to regulate social media and OTT platforms lack "teeth" as there is no provision for pre-screening of content or prosecute violators.
The apex court has asked the centre to consider framing laws to regulate content on OTT platforms and submit a copy of the draft legislation for its consideration after 2 weeks.
Appearing for the centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta assured the court that fresh legislation for OTT platforms is under consideration.
While the court observed that uncontrolled viewing of content on OTT platforms was an issue, Amazon Prime's counsel, senior lawyer Mukul Rohatgi objected to the court's observation on porn being shown on the platform. "I can show you 10 thousand movies on OTT platforms, there is no porn. Great movies are shown," Rohatgi submitted.
Yesterday, the top court stressed the need for pre-screening of content on OTT platforms due to the presence of pornographic material.
At the same time, the SC said there should not be any arrest of Amazon Prime Head Aparna Purohit in connection with the criminal cases filed against the web series "Tandav". However, she has been asked to cooperate in the investigation being carried out in multiple states.
On 27 January, the Supreme Court had refused to quash multiple FIRs against makers and actors of the web series. While the top court had asked states to reply to the request by actors to the various FIRs, they were asked to move respective high courts and trial courts to secure bail in individual cases.