Centre may stop at guidelines notified under IT Act on Feb 25
The government is unlikely to make any fresh legislation regarding regulating offensive content like pornography on over-the-top (OTT) platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc, as it feels that the existing laws have clauses to deal with such cases. Sources said though a final decision has not been taken, it is likely that the Centre may inform the Supreme Court about the relevant provisions and await further directions.
Sources told FE that the Information Technology Act – the new guidelines notified on February 25 were part of this Act only – already has Section 67, 67A and 67B which deal with issues relating to pornography and obscenities and lays down punishments. For instance, Section 67 deals with transmission or publication of obscene material; Section 67A prohibits transmitting or publishing sexually explicit acts in electronic form; and Section 67B bars child pornography and child grooming or exploitation. Punishment in these cases range from three-five years and additionally fines can be imposed.
Further, the guidelines notified on February 25 with regard to nudity and sex lays down that “no content that is prohibited by law at the time being in force can be published or transmitted”.
Government sources feel that if the same is brought before the SC, it is likely that the need for bringing out any fresh legislation to deal with these issues may not be required.
As is known, on March 5, the SC had said that the new laws notified by the government on February 25 to regulate content streamed by OTT platforms lacked clauses relating to pre-screening of the content as well as prosecuting the offenders. It had accordingly asked the government to frame a new law with stronger and stricter provisions to regulate content on OTT platforms, and also submit a copy of the draft legislation for its consideration.
The apex court’s remarks and direction had come while granting protection from arrest to Amazon Prime Video’s India head Aparna Purohit in the ongoing probe against the web series Tandav.
As part of that hearing, the court had also expressed displeasure with many over the top platforms streaming objectionable content, including pornography, and had stressed upon a need for pre-screening of content on OTT platforms due to presence of pornographic material. The new laws, which were notified on February 25, covering OTTs apart from other social media platforms, which the Centre described as light touch regulation, mandates OTTs self-classify content into five age-based categories as is done by films and TV currently. The categories are — U (Universal), U/A 7+ (years), U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).
If consumers find that there’s been a violation of any of the guidelines or code of ethics laid down for OTTs, then they can seek redressal through a three-level grievance redressal mechanism with different levels of self-regulation.
In the first level, the grievance would be handled by the publishers/owners of these entities.
In the second level, there would be a self-regulating bodies of publishers/owners to be headed by a retired judge of Supreme Court, or high courts, or eminent person from the domain. If these two levels fail to satisfactorily address the grievances then the matter would be looked into by an oversight mechanism which would comprise an inter-departmental government panel.