Supreme Court Stays Petitions Pending In High Courts For Regulation Of OTT Content

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed all proceedings pending before various high courts across the country for regulation and functioning of Over-the-top (OTT) platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, etc by the government.

A bench, headed by Justice DY Chandrachud, stayed further proceedings of pleas pending before various high courts and said it would hear the petitions pending before it on a similar issue in the second week of April.

Justice MR Shah, also comprising the bench, said there are many high courts where these cases are pending and proceedings of all these cases can stay.

The top court was hearing a batch of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Shashank Shekhar Jha, appearing for Justice for Rights Foundation for regulating OTT platforms by an autonomous body.

The petitions sought a proper board, institution and association for the monitoring and management of content on different OTT, streaming and digital media platforms.

The central government has also filed the transfer petition seeking transfer of cases pending in different high courts for the regulation of OTT platforms.

The Supreme Court bench had earlier issued a notice on centre’s plea and tagged it with other petitions.

Also, the ministry of information and broadcasting, in the affidavit submitted before the top court, assured it that firm check on the content on OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime as new regulations are in place.

It stated that the new Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 has been notified to address the issue.

Earlier, the top court had asked the Centre to apprise it on what government proposes to do to regulate OTT platforms and asked it to file an affidavit on what it is planning to do after the government said it”s working on the issue.

One of the petitions, filed by advocate Jha, 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 have signed the self-regulation provided by the information and broadcasting ministry since February 2020.

There are over 40 such platforms providing paid, ad-inclusive, and free content to approximately 130 crore people across India, the petitioners said.

The petitions 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 top 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.

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