Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India

Tandav row: SC says govt's rules on OTT have "no teeth"; grants protection from arrest to Amazon Prime Video Head Aparna Purohit

ANI | Updated: Mar 05, 2021 16:09 IST

New Delhi [India], March 5 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Friday said that the new guidelines of the government on regulating Over The Top (OTT) platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime have "no teeth" as there is no provision of prosecution.
A Bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said that law has to be framed to put in place a mechanism to control OTT platforms instead of mere guidelines.
Meanwhile, the Bench also granted relief to the commercial head of Amazon Prime Video, Aparna Purohit by directing the Uttar Pradesh police to not arrest her in the case registered against her in Greater Noida amid controversy over the web series 'Tandav'.
The top court said Purohit's protection from arrest will be subject to her cooperating with the investigation and appearing before the police as and when summoned.
The Bench while hearing the issue of OTT platforms told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the Centre, "We have received the rules you (government) have filed. These rules don't have any teeth. There is no provision for prosecution. They are just guidelines."
Solicitor General replied that government can come up with a better draft of the rules for the consideration of court within two weeks and the new rules were brought as a balance between "no-censorship and internal self-regulation".
"We can come up with something for the Court's consideration. This needs examination," he added while seeking two weeks times.
Yesterday, the Bench asked the Centre to submit before it the regulations on OTT platforms while stressing that there should be some screening of shows and web series being telecast on such platforms.
The top court had observed that some regulation is needed for OTT platforms as in some cases even "pornography is being shown" on such platforms and a balance has to be maintained.
The Bench in it's order noted that, "One issue that has cropped up is uncontrolled viewing of scenes on Prime Video. Union of India has issued notification - the Rules. The rules are in the nature of guidelines with no effective regulation of screening or taking appropriate action. Rules don't list anything about appropriate action to be taken against those who don't abide by the guidelines. Solicitor General has submitted that steps will be taken for the same and it shall be placed before the court."
The issue of regulation of OTT cropped up while hearing an appeal of Purohit, who had approached the apex court against the Allahabad High Court's order that denied an anticipatory bail to her, in the ongoing investigation against the web series 'Tandav'.

The High Court on February 25 declined to give protection from arrest to Purohit by dismissing her anticipatory bail application.
The Uttar Pradesh Police had filed a first information report (FIR) against the top Amazon Prime executive for derogatory depiction of Hindu deities and promoting religious enmity through the series.
The High Court in it's order has noted that "such people make the revered figures of the religion of majority community source of earning money in most brazen manner taking benefit of the liberal and tolerant tradition of country."
Making strong observations while rejecting Purohit's anticipatory bail plea in a case filed against her in Greater Noida, Justice Siddharth said, "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."
Earlier on January 27 the Supreme Court had refused to grant interim protection from arrest to actor and makers of web series 'Tandav' and allowed them to approach High Courts for relief from arrest or quashing of FIRs.
Justice Ashok Bhushan while denying to grant interim protection from arrest however had agreed to hear issue of transferring and clubbing several FIRs registered against them across the country and issued notice to complainants on the prayer.
'Tandav' actor Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub, Purohit and the makers had approached the top court seeking protection from arrest on the FIRs registered against them for allegedly hurting religious sentiments and telecasting objectionable content.
'Tandav', a nine-episode political thriller that started streaming in January this year on Amazon Prime Over The Top (OTT) platform, featuring Saif Ali Khan, Dimple Kapadia and Ayyub, has created uproar for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.
The petitions filed in January had requested the top court that criminal proceedings initiated against them for offences including hurting religious sentiments be quashed or alternatively club all the seven FIRs registered in different states and transfer them to a court in Mumbai.
Three FIRs were registered in Uttar Pradesh's Lucknow, Greater Noida and Shahjahanpur. Two FIRs were lodged in Madhya Pradesh while one FIR each was lodged in Karnataka and Bihar. Apart from the FIRs, at least three other criminal complaints are pending in Maharashtra, Delhi and Chandigarh respectively.
The FIRs were registered for the alleged inappropriate depiction of Uttar Pradesh Police personnel, deities, and adverse portrayal of a character playing the role of Prime Minister in the show.
The FIRs mention that the show portrayed Hindu deity Shiva in "a poor light" as the actor playing him on-screen was shown using foul language. (ANI)