The Supreme Court on Friday, 5 March, observed during a hearing of Amazon Prime Video's India creative head Aparna Purohit in a case pertaining to the web series Tandav that the new OTT rules have no teeth to prosecute and are only regulatory in nature. The court asked the Centre to consider framing a law instead of mere guidelines.
In the same hearing, the bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan also granted interim protection from arrest to Purohit in the case, saying she will not be arrested provided she cooperates with the investigation.
The new OTT rules have no mechanism for screening of content on OTT platforms or taking appropriate action, the court said, as it impleaded the central government as a party to the case.
'No Teeth to Prosecute'
On Friday, the proceedings began with the court observing that the new OTT Rules have ‘no teeth’ to prosecute for content violation. The Bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan noted that:
“These rules don’t have any teeth. There’s no provision for prosecution or fine. They’re only just guidelines.”Supreme Court
Further, the Bench was of the opinion that “without a legislation, there cannot be an effective control of content on OTT platforms.”
A 'Better Draft' In The Making?
Responding to the Supreme Court's ‘no teeth’ comment, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that the latest OTT Rules were put out to strike a balance between “no censorship” and “internal regulation”.
In addition to this, the Solicitor General informed the court that he’ll be producing a “better draft” of these rules for the consideration of court. Whether this “better draft” is new legislation or a revised version of the present rules, it was not clarified.
Therefore, the court added that the Union of India as a party to the present case by observing that there’s a need to address the issue of uncontrolled viewing of scenes on Amazon Prime Video. While observing that the present OTT Rules are in the nature of guidelines, the court said:
“The (OTT) rules are in the nature of guidelines with no effective regulation of screening or taking action against those who don’t abide by it.”
It is pertinent to highlight that another Bench of the Supreme Court is hearing a batch of Public Interest Litigation petitions seeking regulation of content on OTT platforms.
Aparna Purohit Moves SC Seeking Anticipatory Bail
Aparna Purohit, India Head of Amazon Prime, had moved the Supreme Court against the order of the Allahabad High Court denying her anticipatory bail in a bunch of FIRs registered against the TV series Tandav.
An Allahabad High Court single-judge bench had rejected the anticipatory bail plea filed by Purohit, a top Amazon executive in India, who had an FIR registered against her by the Uttar Pradesh police. She has been accused of promoting religious enmity.
In a 20-page order, Justice Siddharth had made extreme observations while rejecting Purohit’s bail application saying, "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."