The Centre on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court that it was contemplating “some action” to regulate content on over-the-top platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, reported PTI.
A bench comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian asked the government to file its response within six weeks on a petition seeking regulation of streaming platforms. The CJI said that “mere contemplation” was not acceptable, and sought to know the exact nature of the action the government would take, reported India Today.
On October 15, the Supreme Court had issued notices to the central government, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Internet and Mobile Association of India. The plea, filed by advocates Shashank Shekhar Jha and Apurva Arhatia, argued that the rise of OTT platforms had a direct correlation with the rising instances of cyber crimes in the country.
The petitioners also sought that authorities set up a proper board, institution or an association for the monitoring and management of content streamed on these platforms. It said that none of the platforms including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee5, and Hotstar have signed up for the self-regulation rules provided by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting since February 2020.
With cinema theatres unlikely to open anytime soon in the country, OTT and different digital media platforms have given a way out for filmmakers and artists to release their content without being worried about getting clearance certificates from the censor board, the plea said.
At present there is no law or autonomous body governing the digital content to monitor and manage it. As a result, the plea argued, all kind of content is made available to the public at large without any filter or screening.
“Lack of legislation governing OTT/Streaming Platforms is becoming evident with each passing day and every new case that is filed on these grounds,” the plea added. “The government is facing heat to fill this lacuna with regulations from the public and the judiciary; still the relevant government departments have not done anything significant to regularise these OTT/streaming platforms.”
The case comes at a time when streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon have found themselves caught up in the middle of political controversies over what they air in India. Several leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party put pressure on India’s film and entertainment industry, objecting to their content on religious and nationalistic grounds.
The latest example of this was the outrage over Amazon Prime webseries Tandav, amplified by right-wing leaders, who alleged that the show insulted Hindu sentiments. Multiple complaints were filed against the streaming platform and the makers of the show.