7 March 2023 4:00 AM GMT
Observing that the use of vulgar language in public domain and on social media platforms needs to be take seriously as they are open to children of tender age, the Delhi High Court has said that the issue of enactment of appropriate law or guidelines to regulate content on social media and OTT platforms needs urgent attention.Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma heavily criticized the language used...
Observing that the use of vulgar language in public domain and on social media platforms needs to be take seriously as they are open to children of tender age, the Delhi High Court has said that the issue of enactment of appropriate law or guidelines to regulate content on social media and OTT platforms needs urgent attention.
Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma heavily criticized the language used in TVF web series “College Romance” observing that it does not pass "morale decency community test" of a common man and transgresses into the area of obscenity.
“In the light of above, this Court draws the attention of the Ministry of Information and Technology to the situations which are fast emerging on a daily basis and to take steps for enforcing stricter application of its rules qua the intermediaries as notified in Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 and make any laws or rules as deemed appropriate in its wisdom, in light of the observations made in this judgment,” it said.
The court said that the use of obscene words and foul language on social media platforms have to be regulated “when it crosses a particular line” as it can be a “true threat” to impressionable minds and cannot receive constitutional protection of free speech.
It added that while students can be punished for uttering or using profane speech in in schools and offices, authorities also need to regulate profanity "which enters into domain of indecent speech by a broadcast medium."
Observing that the use of profanity is also a moral issue and the society has to deal with it by its own means, the court said:
“However, when the content is shown through social media, the sheer enormous power of electronic media and its reach to people of all ages will certainly invite attention of the Court, law enforcement and law making authorities to regulate it. One cannot lean in favour of unrestricted, unfettered freedom of profane, indecent and obscene speech and expression by way of web series without classification of the same.”
Justice Sharma further said that the words and language used in the web series in question will certainly be found by many as naturally disgusting, dirty and sexual which are not part of “standard Hindi or any other Indian language.”
“In Indian society, even today, swear words are not spoken in the presence of the elderly, at religious places, or in front of women or children,” court said.
It added: “Such linguistic decay of Hindi language will go beyond falling standards in society. The use of profanity and words which are taboo in general parlance in the web series on the pretext that this is how the new generation behaves and speaks or communicates, in this Court’s opinion, is not the mirror of such social realities and is certainly distorted. Though such web series may portray a certain part of society, the popular culture of this country still identifies with and adopts point of view of civil language.”
The court said that the media cannot be allowed to legitimize offensive language including swearing and profane words in the garb of change of language with passage of time.
The court said Indian cinema, which has now also extended social media and OTT platforms, is not the same as was in the old films where romance between two persons was symbolically shown by showing two birds or flowers meeting on the screen.
“The limit regarding how much the society has changed will still have to be defined and seen in practicality. When examined in the practical light of common man, this Court reaches a conclusion that the majority of this country cannot be said to be using such vulgar, profane, indecent, swear words and expletives as projected in the web series in question in day-to-day spoken language with each other even in educational institutions,” it said.
Furthermore, the court said that the India’s constitutional jurisprudence and judiciary has always ensured that there is no man or situation which is without redressal and that justice system remains strong and redresses the issue when someone approaches the court.
“Though primarily the role of the judges in our country is to interpret and apply the law and ensure enforcement of constitutional rights and principles, when faced with a situation of unclear or incomplete laws, the Court has to exercise the power of taking recourse to constitutional values with care and objectivity by interpreting, reconciling and thereafter applying the law to the situation in hand. Denying to do justice faced by such situation will amount to permitting injustice to prevail and take shelter under advantage of unclear law and wearing the mask of false legality,” it said.
On the argument as to whether courts will be justified in deciding a case when the existing codified law does not specifically define certain words, the court said that judges cannot close their eyes to situations where the law may be silent or unclear.
“This Court by way of this judgment is not creating any new law, rather in the present situation, the Court wants to ensure that by way of rigorous process of legal reasoning and having regard to written provisions of available laws, case laws and societal affirmed values, it is able to point out the wrong doers and bring them within the ambit of law. This is not law making in the legislative sense, but essentially legitimate judicial work for which this Court is bound by its solemn oath to the Constitution of India. Even if a judgment triggers a debate in the society about an issue at the heart of a societal problem, it will serve the ends of justice i.e. the ultimate goal of a judge,” the court observed.
The court also observed that it is not confusing morality with legality but it has to ensure its role of being answerable to the judicial conscience which is not confused with personal conscience, but is founded on its “commitment to oath of upholding rule of law.”
Also Read: TVF Web Series College Romance's Language Does Not Pass 'Community Test Of Common Man', Transgresses Into Area Of Obscenity: Delhi High Court
Title: TVF MEDIA LABS PVT LTD & ORS v. STATE (GOVT.OF NCT OF DELHI) & ANR.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Del) 210
Click Here To Read Order