Starting at 12.01 tonight, if you go to the channel that used to be Comedy Central on your box-set, you’ll find yourself staring at a black screen. It has nothing to do with your cablewallah or your dish. Instead, this is the work of a regulatory environment that has decided to censor the humour channel for appearing to “deprave, corrupt and injure the public morality and morals.”

The Delhi High Court on Monday upheld a previous order mandating that the channel, owned by Viacom18, goes off air for a set period as punishment for airing risque material. If you want to get access to all your favourite sitcoms and American comedy imports, you will have to wait until December 2 before Comedy Central flickers back to life on your TV screen.

The order was the result of two TV shows that were found by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting last year to not be “suitable for unrestricted public exhibition and children as the same depicted women as a commodity of sex”. The actual descriptions of the show, written by the objecting ministry of information and broadcasting, are quite evocative.

First up, Stand Up Club.
The programme showed a man performing an act of stand-up comedy and mouthing vulgar words accompanied by obscene and suggestive gestures and gyration. During his performance, the man was shown uttering dialogues denigrating women, indecently and crudely referred to sex organs of men-and women and the sing-song rendition by the man sought to pornographically describe the male lust, depicting women as a commodity of sex. The portrayal appeared to deprave, corrupt and injure the public morality or morals.

This aired on May 26 in 2012. Just a few days later, on June 4, Comedy Central aired gag show Popcorn.
During the programme, one of its crew pranksters is shown standing opposite a wall, in a shop (apparently a shoe-store), holding a pair of dummy legs from its thighs in his hands and making suggestive movements…Then the prankster is shown to move towards the parking lot and standing before the front door of a car is shown repeating the to and fro movements, holding the dummy legs suggesting the enactment of sexual act. A man sitting inside the car is shown staring at him in disbelief.

The High Court, in its order, pointed out that regulation of such content was important because, as the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act points out, the mushrooming of cable channels in India “was perceived in many quarters as a 'cultural invasion;" since the programmes available on these satellite channels were "predominantly western and totally alien to the Indian culture and way of life”.

It is also important to note that Viacom18 decided not to contest the charge that these programmes were indeed worth censoring. Instead, the owners of the channel said that the broadcast had been an “operational mishap” and “unintentional”. The company was instead only appealing the decision of the Inter-Ministerial Council set up to look into violations of the programme code, which ordered Comedy Central to go off air for 10 days.

Viacom insisted this was too long and asked instead for just four days off, which it then self-imposed. That appeal having been dismissed, saying "the punishment meted out is proportionate to the violations and justly meets the collective cry of the society," and so Comedy Central will now be off air for the next six days.