The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to apprise it on what government proposes to do to regulate Over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.
A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde asked the Central government to file an affidavit on what it is planning to do after the government said it”s working on the matter.During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, appearing for the Centre, told the Bench that government has not finalised the steps to be taken in regulating the OTT platforms but it’s contemplating.
To this, the Chief Justice said, “We cannot accept mere contemplates. Everybody in the world is contemplating. File affidavit on what you are doing.”At the outset, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta also appearing for Centre told the Bench that “the issue is being taken seriously and something is already underway.”
After hearing Solicitor General’s submission Bench suggested that petitioners file a representation before the government and give their suggestions, however, later it asked the government to file an affidavit and tagged the plea along with similar plea pending before it.The apex court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation( PIL) filed by advocates Shashank Shekhar Jha and Apurva Arhatia for regulating OTT platforms by an autonomous body.
The plea sought a proper board/institution /association for the monitoring and management of content on different OTT/Streaming and digital media platforms.It said that at present there is no law or autonomous body governing, monitoring, and managing such digital contents and it is made available to the public at large without any filter or screening.The PIL said that none of the OTT/Streaming platforms including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee5, and Hotstar has signed the self-regulation provided by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting since February 2020.
There are over 40 such platforms providing paid, advertisement-inclusive, and free content to approximately 130 crore people across India, the petitioners said.The petition said their aim is to protect the constitutional right to life, by preventing these platforms from abusing their freedom of expression.The plea requested the setting up of a board headed by a secretary-level IAS officer, with members from varied fields including movie, cinematographic, media, defence forces, legal and education.
The plea stated, “With cinemas theatres unlikely to open anytime soon in the country, OTT/Streaming and different digital media platforms have surely given a way out for filmmakers and artists to release their content without being worried about getting clearance certificates for their films and series from the censor board.”In a separate case, the Centre had earlier told the apex court that there is a need to regulate digital media and that the court may first appoint a committee of persons as amicus before laying down guidelines with respect to the regulation of hate speech in media.