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Screening Of OTT Content Needed; Some Platforms Even Show Pornography : Supreme Court Says During 'Tandav' Case

Radhika Roy
4 March 2021 8:02 AM GMT
Screening Of OTT Content Needed; Some Platforms Even Show Pornography : Supreme Court Says During Tandav Case
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"We are of the view that some screening of OTT content should take place", observed the Supreme Court on Thursday while hearing a plea filed by Amazon Prime's Commercial Head, Aparna Purohit, challenging the Allahabad High Court Judgment denying pre-arrest bail to her in the criminal cases registered in connection with the web series "Tandav"."In fact, some platforms even...

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"We are of the view that some screening of OTT content should take place", observed the Supreme Court on Thursday while hearing a plea filed by Amazon Prime's Commercial Head, Aparna Purohit, challenging the Allahabad High Court Judgment denying pre-arrest bail to her in the criminal cases registered in connection with the web series "Tandav".

"In fact, some platforms even show pornography", the bench remarked.

A Bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan was presiding over the matter and directed Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta to circulate the new Information Technology Rules, 2021, which were notified last week.

COURTROOM EXCHANGE

In today's hearing, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Purohit, submitted before the Court that it was a shocking case wherein the Petitioner was an employee of Amazon and had been made an accused, along with the Producer and the actor. However, the Company was not an accused.

"These are all publicity seekers who have been filing cases all over India. Look at the FIR, look at what's happening. If you want to watch this web series, you have to pay to see this", submitted Rohatgi.

The Bench then posed a query stating, "Traditional film viewing has become obsolete. People watching cinema on internet has become common. Our query is that these should be screened?"

To this, Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra informed the Bench that new Rules had been notified by the Centre which called for regulating the content on OTT platforms, and that a Board would be constituted for the same.

The Bench then directed the SG to place on record, as well as circulate the Rules in question.

"Mr. Mehta, please place the Regulations before us. Circulate it. We are of the view that some screening should take place. In fact, some platforms even show pornography", noted the Bench.

The matter has now been adjourned to tomorrow.

'Tandav' hurt religious sentiments, Allahabad HC

The Allahabad High Court had on 25th February denied Pre-arrest bail to Commercial Head of Amazon Prime Video, Aparna Purohit, in the ongoing investigation against the web series 'Tandav'.

At the outset, referring to allegedly objectionable scene of the Series, wherein Devakinandan (Lord Krishna) is talking to another character Kailash (Lord Shiva), the Court remarked,

"These characters are part of religious faith of majority community of India and their use by filmmakers in offensive way is bound to hurt the sentiments of the majority community of the country."

The Court has even remarked that the alluding to Lord Rama gaining popularity on social media is a clear pointer to the dispute regarding the construction of Lord Ram's temple.

Further, the Court has also remarked that the use of the word "TANDAV" as the name of the movie could be offensive to the majority of the people of this country since this word is associated with a particular act assigned to Lord Shiva who is considered to be creator, conservator and destroyer of mankind altogether.

Again, referring to the abovementioned scenes of the Series, the Court has remarked,

"The advice of Sage Narad to Lord Shiva to make some inflammatory tweet on Twitter like all the students of the campus becoming traitors and raising slogans of freedom clearly alludes to the incidents which took place in Jawaharlal Nehru University and therefore, it can be considered to be a message of hate advanced through the movie."

The Allahabad HC's 20-page Order denying anticipatory bail to Aparna Purohit goes on to take judicial notice of the fact that whenever such crimes (like the one at hand) are committed by some citizens of the country, "the forces inimical to the interest of this country become active and they make it an issue and raise it before different national and international forums alleging that the Indian citizens have become intolerant and 'India' has become an unsafe place to live."

Court's observations regarding Hindi Film Indutsry

The Bench of Justice Siddharth in its 20-page-order has remarked that a number of movies have been produced which have used the name of Hindu Gods and Goddesses and shown them in disrespectful manner.

To drive home the point, the Court has even named some movies namely - Ram Teri Ganga Maili, Satyam Shivam Sundram, P.K., Oh My God and has further observed that,

"Efforts have been made to subvert the image of historical and mythological personalities (Padmavati). Names and icons of faith of majority community have been used to earn money (Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram Leela)."

The Court has also underlined that his tendency on the part of the Hindi film industry is growing and if not curbed in time, it may have disastrous consequences for the Indian social, religious and communal order.

The Court has referred to a design behind such acts on the part of the people who just give a disclaimer in all the films and depict things in the movies which are really religiously, socially, and communally offensive in nature.

Noting that the film industry in the south has not indulged in such acts like the Hindi film industry, the Court has also observed,

"The young generation of the country, which is not much aware of the social and cultural heritage of this country, gradually starts believing what is shown in the movies by the people like the accused persons in the present movie in dispute and thereby, it destroys the basic concept of the survival of this country having tremendous diversity of all kinds as a united nation."

"Offences are made out, Applicant doesn't deserve pre arrest Bail"

With regard to the application of Section 295-A I.P.C. in the instant case, the Court has noted that the scenes show that the scenes have been made, intentionally using the names of Hindu Gods and sage to convey an insidious message.

In reference to the charge under Section 153-A(b) I.P.C., the Court has noted that the offence is fully made out since the act of the applicant is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, social and communal groups and would affect public peace and tranquility.

Further, the Court has also noted that the contents of the dialogues in the above-noted scenes would show that the offences under Sections 505(1)(b) I.P.C. and 505(2) I.P.C. are fully made out.

Underlining that an attempt has been made to widen the gap between the higher castes and the scheduled castes in the aforesaid scenes and that her fundamental right of life and liberty cannot be protected by grant of anticipatory bail, the Court has remarked,

"The sentiments of majority community have been hurt by display of the characters of their faith in disrespectful manner and on the other hand…the applicant had not been vigilant and has acted irresponsibly making her open to criminal prosecution in permitting streaming of a movie which is against the fundamental rights of the majority of citizens of this country."

Lastly, the Court said that the conduct of the applicant shows that she has scant respect for the law of the land and her conduct further disentitles her to any relief from this Court, since co-operation with the investigation is a necessary condition for grant of anticipatory bail.


She has been booked for alleged commission of offences under Sections 66 (Computer-related offences), 66F (Punishment for cyber terrorism) and 67 (Transmitting obscene material) IT Act, 2008 (as amended) apart from Sections 153-A (Promoting enmity between different groups), 295 (Defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion), 505(1)(b) (Public mischief), 505(2) (Statements promoting hatred between classes), 469 (Forgery for purpose of harming reputation) of IPC.

With regard to the application of Section 295-A I.P.C. the Court has noted that the scenes show that the scenes have been made, intentionally using the names of Hindu Gods and sage to convey an insidious message.

In reference to the charge under Section 153-A(b) I.P.C., the Court has noted that the offence is fully made out since the act of the applicant is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, social and communal groups and would affect public peace and tranquility.

Further, the Court has also noted that the contents of the dialogues in the above-noted scenes would show that the offences under Sections 505(1)(b) I.P.C. and 505(2) I.P.C. are fully made out.

Underlining that an attempt has been made to widen the gap between the higher castes and the scheduled castes in the aforesaid scenes and that her fundamental right of life and liberty cannot be protected by grant of anticipatory bail, the Court has remarked,

"The sentiments of majority community have been hurt by display of the characters of their faith in disrespectful manner and on the other hand…the applicant had not been vigilant and has acted irresponsibly making her open to criminal prosecution in permitting streaming of a movie which is against the fundamental rights of the majority of citizens of this country."

Lastly, the Court said that the conduct of the applicant shows that she has scant respect for the law of the land and her conduct further disentitles her to any relief from this Court, since co-operation with the investigation is a necessary condition for grant of anticipatory bail.

 




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