IT rules have no teeth, can’t control OTT without law, says SC

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By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
March 6, 2021 4:22:54 am

After going through the Rules, the bench said, “...there is no teeth, no power of prosecution. These are just guidelines. No mechanism to control... Without legislation you cannot control it.”

The Centre on Friday told the Supreme Court that it would consider bringing in a law or regulations to control OTT platforms, after the apex court said that the recently notified guidelines in respect of these platforms “lacked teeth” to act against violators.

Before granting interim protection from arrest to Amazon Prime Video’s head of India Originals, Aparna Purohit, in connection with an FIR against her over the Tandav web series, a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and R Subhash Reddy asked the Centre for a copy of The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The Rules were notified by the government on February 25 for regulating content on these platforms.

After going through the Rules, the bench said, “…there is no teeth, no power of prosecution. These are just guidelines. No mechanism to control… Without legislation you cannot control it.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who represented the Centre, then told the bench that “the Government shall consider and take appropriate steps for regulation or legislation as may be found fit by the Government and the same shall be placed before the court”.

Appearing for Purohit, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi said that she is not involved in the production, writing or direction of the web series, and is merely an officer of the company which owns the platform on which the web series was released.

Issuing notice on her plea, the bench granted her the relief “subject to her co-operation with the investigation” and directed that “she shall appear before the Investigating Officer as and when required”.

The Allahabad High Court had on February 25 rejected her anticipatory bail plea stating that “…the fact remains that the applicant had not been vigilant and has acted irresponsibly, making her open to criminal prosecution in permitting streaming of a movie which is against the fundamental rights of the majority of citizens of this country and therefore, her fundamental right of life and liberty cannot be protected by grant of anticipatory bail to her in the exercise of discretionary powers of this court.”

It said that the reference to the disclaimer about the show being fictional “cannot be considered to be a ground for absolving the applicant of permitting the streaming of an objectionable movie online”.

The HC also said Purohit was granted interim protection from arrest on February 11 by the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court, “but she was not co-operating with the investigation” and that “…this conduct of the applicant shows that she has scant respect for the law of the land and her conduct further disentitles her to any relief from this court, since co-operation with investigation is a necessary condition for grant of anticipatory bail”.

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