Supreme Court of India(File photo)
Supreme Court of India(File photo)

Spell out regulatory regime, SC tells govt on OTT norms

The court was initially of the view that PIL demanding institutional regulations for OTTs should first go to the government, as solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, made a statement that “something” was being done about it.
PUBLISHED ON FEB 17, 2021 01:11 AM IST

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Union government to spell out the kind of regulatory regime they intend to put in place for over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hotstar.

A top court bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde told the government that a “mere contemplation” on regulation was not sufficient, and that they must come forth with something “concrete” since the issue was important. “This is an important issue. It is not adversarial at all. The government should tell us what it is doing about the OTTs. What is it you are doing, a legislation or what?” asked the bench, which included justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

Read more: Contemplating 'some action' on regulating OTT platforms, Centre tells SC

The court was initially of the view that PIL demanding institutional regulations for OTTs should first go to the government, as solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, made a statement that “something” was being done about it.

However, when the bench sought to know exactly what was being considered, there were no answers on the specifics. Instead, additional solicitor general (ASG) KM Nataraj, also appearing for the Centre, submitted: “We are looking at the issue. The issue is under deliberation. Nothing is finalised yet. We are contemplating something in this regard.” This submission made the bench retort: “We cannot accept the word mere ‘contemplation’. We need to know what exactly you are doing. Everyone in the world contemplates. So that’s not enough. You file your affidavit and tell us what is it that you are planning to do. Tell us something concrete.” Two weeks have been given to the government for filing their reply to the petition by Shashank Shekhar Jha and Apurva Arhatia.

Last October, the court issued notices on this PIL, which had sought establishment of a proper institution for the monitoring and management of content on different OTT and streaming and digital media platforms.

Read more: Manoj Bajpayee says OTT will lose its charm if it comes under censorship

None of the OTT platforms including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee5, and Hotstar have signed the self-regulation provided by the ministry of Information & Broadcasting since February 2020, said the PIL. It had also stated that absence of a monitoring and regulatory body has let writers, directors, and producers to experiment limitless, due to which unchecked and uncensored contents on cruelty, violence, sex, obscene language and on screen-smoking were being streamed on these platforms.

In November last year, the Union government had brought the streaming video services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, and news websites under the ambit of I&B ministry for regulation. This notification was seen as a precursor to the government approving future rules — either through legislation or endorsement of self-regulatory mechanisms. At present, there are no laws or autonomous bodies that have a say on the sort of content on streaming services or news websites.

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