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Supreme Court issues notice in plea seeking regulation of OTT content

The appeal has been filed against the ruling of the Delhi HC

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MUMBAI: In a rather interesting turn of events, the Supreme Court Bench of chief justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna on Friday issued notice in a plea seeking regulation of content on streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

The appeal has been filed against the ruling of the Delhi High Court that had dismissed the PIL seeking a framework for the regulation of video streaming content of over-the-top (OTT) platforms. NGO Justice for Rights, represented by advocate Harpreet Singh Hora, had filed the PIL.

"The said online platforms are displaying unlicenced, unregulated, uncertified content and collecting subscription amounts from Indian consumers whereas the content telecasted on the online platforms is illegal to the extent that certain movies banned under the provisions of the Indian Cinematograph Act and not even passed by the Central Board for Film Certification but are allowed to be telecasted for the general populace by bypassing the law of the land," read the plea filed by the NGO in the apex court.

The plea also claims that in the absence of any licence or body regulating OTT services, the government agencies are creating a special class of broadcasters and discriminating against cable TV operators, DTH companies and consumers.

"The impugned judgment of February 8 (of high court) only presents the petitioner with remedies that are available after the content has been broadcast, however, the petitioner had also raised the contention that such content must be certified by a certifying body as the content on these web platforms is broadcasted for consumption of general public," the plea stated.

In February, the Delhi High Court bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V Kameswar Rao had dismissed the petition after the centre informed it that the streaming services did not require a Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) approval. The government had also told the court that the MIB did not regulate content on OTT platforms either. In fact, the Ministry of Law and Justice had told the court that the matter did not fall under its jurisdiction.

The court, while dismissing the petition, had noted that it could not direct streaming platforms to get a licence since the law does not state so. The petitioner was advised by the court to opt for the FIR route instead.

A similar petition is pending before Karnataka High Court as well. The court issued a notice in the matter earlier this year.

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