Supreme Court Rules That Amazon Prime Video’s India Head Can’t Be Arrested in Tandav Case
The Supreme Court ruled today that new Government rules on social media and over-the-top (OTT) platforms have no teeth, and thus, no power for prosecution. This ruling grants relief from arrest to Amazon Prime Video’s India head Aparna Purohit in an ongoing investigation of web series Tandav.
However, the Court leaned towards regulating OTT content at large according to observations made on Thursday. It was hearing Purohit’s plea to challenge the Allahabad High Court judgment that previously denied her anticipatory bail. The Bench remarked, “We are of the view that there should be some screening of such programs. At times they are showing pornography too.”
Tandav has faced trouble since its release, with allegations of certain characters and scenes offending Hindu religious sentiments. The process of screening to which the Bench referred is the new IT Rules, 2021, which make OTT platforms legally liable if they do not co-operate with a three-tier regulatory mechanism and a Code of Ethics. Several privacy and internet freedom activists are currently criticizing these rules for interfering with citizen’s right to privacy and freedom of speech.
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Arguing for the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Gupta said, “They [OTT platforms] are showing filthy things with abuses too.”
The defense, argued by Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, stated, “It’s about freedom of speech and expression.” In return, the Bench replied, “It’s about creating balance.”
Purohit has been booked for alleged offenses under Sections 66 (computer-related offenses), 66F (punishment for cyber-terrorism), 67 (transmitting obscene material). She was also booked under the IT Act, 2008 (as amended) apart from 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, and, 469 (forgery for purpose of harming reputation) of IPC.
The Allahabad High Court denied her bail last week, stating the applicant had “scant” respect for the law and that her lack of co-operation with the investigation further disentitled her from receiving pre-arrest bail.