The Supreme Court on Friday granted interim protection from arrest to Amazon Prime Video’s India Content Head Aparna Purohit in the first information report filed against her in connection with the web series Tandav, Live Law reported.
A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and R Subhash Reddy noted that the stay on Purohit’s arrest will be subject to her cooperating in the investigation.
Purohit moved the Supreme Court after the Allahabad High Court rejected her bail plea on February 25, saying that the use of the word “Tandav” could offend majority of the people in the country as it was associated to Hindu deity Shiva.
Purohit has been booked under multiple charges, including Sections 153-A (Promoting enmity between different groups), 295 (Defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion), 505(1)(b) (Public mischief), 505(2) (Statements promoting hatred between classes) of the Indian Penal Code, and those under the Information Technology Act.
Apart from her, the FIR filed in Lucknow also named director of Tandav, Ali Abbas Zafar, producer Himanshu Mehra and writer Gaurav Solanki.
Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka are among the states where first information reports have been filed against the show. At least three complaints were also pending in Delhi, Chandigarh and Maharashtra.
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‘Centre’s new OTT rules lack teeth’: SC
While hearing Purohit’s petition, the Supreme Court said the Centre’s new rules to regulate over-the-top or OTT platforms “lacked teeth” as there was no provision to punish violators. “Without a legislation, there cannot be effective control,” the bench said, according to Live Law. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said he will submit a draft legislation to the court.
Meanwhile, Amazon’s counsel Mukul Rohatgi complained about an oral remark made by Justice Bhushan that some content on OTT platforms was pornographic. “Your statement on pornography has been reported [in the media],” he said. “There is no such thing on Amazon Prime and Netflix. I see them every evening. There is no such content.”
Bhushan had on Thursday called for screening of OTT content. “At times they are showing pornography too,” he had said, according to Bar and Bench.
The Centre had on February 25 notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, under the Information Technology Act, 2000. The new set of rules are for regulating social media companies, streaming and digital news content, virtually bringing them, for the first time, under the ambit of government supervision.
The government had proposed a three-tier mechanism for the platforms to address content-related matters. The first layer would be officials appointed by these companies. The second- would be a self-regulatory body to address complaints. The third tier would be a government-appointed panel.
The controversy over ‘Tandav’
The series purportedly provides a commentary on India’s political scene under the Narendra Modi government. The show touches upon farmer agitations to student protests to police killings – all events that have happened under the administration of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Soon after its launch, several Bharatiya Janata Party members had accused the makers of the show of hurting religious sentiments, and insisted that the government pull the series off air or take out key scenes.
Amazon Prime added that it respected the diverse beliefs and offered unconditional apologies to everyone who was hurt by the scenes. “Our teams follow company content evaluation processes, which we acknowledge need to be constantly updated to better serve our audiences,” the statement read. “We will continue to develop entertaining content with partners, while complying with the laws of India and respecting the diversity of culture and beliefs of our audiences.”
On January 27, the Supreme Court had refused to grant the makers and actors of the Amazon Prime web series protection from arrest. “Your right to freedom of speech is not absolute,” the court had said.