Two days after stating that OTT platforms need to be regulated, especially for their pornographic content, the Supreme Court on Friday slammed the centre’s guidelines on OTT platforms and said it has “no teeth”. The Supreme Court also said that the Centre’s new regulations to deal with social media and OTT have no mechanism in place to ensure “objectionable content” isn’t screened. The Centre assured Supreme Court that new laws and regulations will be brought forward with respect to the regulations that “lacked teeth” to take action against violators.
The apex court’s statement came in the Amazon Prime Video’s head Aparna Purohit’s case. Purohit has been making rounds of courts in connection with the FIRs lodged against her over the Amazon-produced web series Tanadv.
On Thursday, the bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and R Subhash Reddy asked centre for a copy of the newly formed Information Technology act (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code), Rules, 2021. The Indian government announced the rules on February 25 for regulating content on OTT platforms, social media, and to place a redressal mechanism for grievances.
After the bench went through the rules, it said, “Mr Mehta, we went through the technology intermediary guidelines. But there is no teeth. No power of prosecution. These are just guidelines. No mechanism to control.
The bench in its ruling also added, “One of the issues which has cropped up is uncontrolled viewing of films in Prime Video. The government of India has issued a notification dated February 5, namely IT Intermediary Rules. Rules are in the nature of guidelines with no mechanism for either screening or taking apt action against those who violate these guidelines. “
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who represented Centre, assured that the government shall consider preparing another legislation draft and place it before the Supreme Court for consideration. “The Government shall consider and take appropriate steps for regulation or legislation as may be found fit by the Government and the same shall be placed before the court,” said Mehta.
The ruling came during the anticipatory bail plea by Amazon Prime Video head Aparna Purohit. The plea was also privy to an interesting exchange between the Bench, the lawyer representing Purohit, and the Indian Solicitor General.
After the Supreme Court remarked on Thursday this week that OTT platforms have pornographic content, the discussion on Friday revolved around the nature of the content on OTT platforms.
Aparna Purohit’s lawyer Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi approached the Bench and informed it that the remarks made on OTT’s content were widely reported by the Indian press. However, Rohatgi maintained his position and said that OTT platforms do not show any pornographic content.
According to Bar and Bench, Rohatgi said, “Your statement on pornography has been reported. There is no such thing on Amazon Prime and Netflix. I see them every evening. There is no such content.”
Tushar Mehta, who appeared for Central Government intervened and said, “The Bench meant pornographic.”
Rohatgi did not budge and reiterated saying, “I see so many shows. There is no pornography.”
Later, the Supreme Court went on to give its statement about the new OTT guidelines not having any teeth and further asserting that without legislation, no actions can be taken against violators.