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Madhya Pradesh HC Issues Notice On Plea For Regulation Of Web Streaming Platforms

Akshita Saxena
25 Sep 2019 3:01 AM GMT
Madhya Pradesh HC Issues Notice On Plea For Regulation Of Web Streaming Platforms
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The Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court on Monday issued notices on a plea filed against Over The Top (OTT) media platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc., for regulation against alleged streaming obscene and sexually explicit content.The division bench of Justice S. C. Sharma and Justice Shailendra Shukla asked the Central Government and the ten respondent Companies...

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The Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court on Monday issued notices on a plea filed against Over The Top (OTT) media platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc., for regulation against alleged streaming obscene and sexually explicit content.

The division bench of Justice S. C. Sharma and Justice Shailendra Shukla asked the Central Government and  the ten respondent Companies viz. AltBalaji, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Ullu, Voot, Vuclip, Hoichoi, Yashraj Films, Arre and Zee5 to file their replies in this behalf within six weeks.

The plea was filed by an NGO Maatr Foundation, through Advocates Amay Bajaj, Ashi Vaidya, Paritosh Shrivastava and Anmol Kushwaha, seeking directions to the Central Government to make apposite rules on this matter and to regulate the content. It also prayed for directions to the aforesaid platforms to remove all alleged illegal content from their websites as well as internet, with immediate effect.

The petitioner contended that the government had prohibited pornographic websites in 2015 and yet, the Respondents had been streaming "nude, obscene, sexually explicit, unlawful and vulgar content".

It contended that the respondents had been "objectifying women" by way of their content which was easily accessible to the public at large. It was also concerned by the adverse effect such content would have on children of tender age who could freely access the same.

In this view, Advocate Amay Bajaj submitted that the Respondents had been affecting their right to life with dignity as enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution and said,

"The content streamed was showing women in bad light and corrupting the minds of youngsters as well as children. These companies were also violating several provisions of Indian Penal Code, Information Technology Act, Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act and Indian Constitution."

He continued,

"We filed RTIs in several ministries of Central government and there was denial as to jurisdiction on the subject matter."

Considerably, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Central Board of Film Certification have denied their jurisdiction on web streaming platforms. In this view the Petitioner had submitted that no authority was censoring/ examining the content on these platforms and urged the court to issue guidelines stating that "Internet Media Content Sharing" falls within the purview of Section 2(c) of Cinematograph Act, 1952.

It was submitted that these platforms were intermediaries under the Information Technology Act, 2000, as declared by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, and they ought to have observed due diligence as per the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules, 2011. However, these platforms had instead committed offences under Sections 67, 67A and 67B of the IT Act, alleged the petitioner.

In addition to violation of the provisions of the IT Act and the rules framed thereunder, the petitioner submitted that the Respondents' acts were also opposed to decency and morality of the state and were in gross violation of Article 19(2) of the Constitution. Moreover, the respondents' were alleged to be in violation of Sections 3, 4 and 7 of the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 and Sections 292, 293 and 294 of IPC. All these provisions prohibit depiction/ circulation of content representing women in as sexual objects.

The matter has now been posted for December 10.

Last February, the Delhi High Court had dismissed a similar plea. The High Court of Karnataka has also dismissed such a petition for regulation of content of OTT platforms.

A similar petition is pending in the Supreme Court.

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