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The Supreme Court on Thursday said that few over-the-top (OTT) platforms show some kind of pornographic content at times and there should be a mechanism to screen such programmes.

The top court has asked the Centre to submit before it the recently framed regulations on OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime by Friday while stressing that there should be some screening of shows and web series being telecast on such platforms.

The SC was hearing a plea on the controversy surrounding Amazon Prime Video’s latest show 'Tandav'.

A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to place before it the recent guidelines of the government to regulate social media platforms on Friday, when it would hear the plea of Amazon Prime Video's India head Aparna Purohit challenging the Allahabad High Court order rejecting her anticipatory bail in connection with FIRs lodged against her over web series 'Tandav'.

“A balance has to be struck as some OTT platforms are also showing pornographic materials on their platforms," the bench, also comprising Justice R S Reddy, said.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Purohit, termed the case against her as “shocking" saying this woman is an employee of Amazon and she is neither a producer nor an actor but still she has been made an accused in around 10 cases relating to the web series across the country.

Tandav, a nine-episode political thriller starring Bollywood A-listers Saif Ali Khan, Dimple Kapadia and Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, started streaming recently.

Purohit has been accused of an inappropriate depiction of Uttar Pradesh police personnel, Hindu deities and an adverse portrayal of a character playing the prime minister in the web series.

Earlier, the apex court, on January 27, had declined to grant interim protection from any coercive action to Ali Abbas Zafar, Director of the web series, Purohit, producer Himanshu Mehra, the show's writer Gaurav Solanki and actor Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub.

It had said that they may seek bail from courts concerned in the FIRs lodged in connection with the web series.

Now, Purohit has appealed to the top court against the Allahabad High Court's February 25 order declining anticipatory bail to her.

A single-judge bench of the High Court had said that Purohit 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 the grant of anticipatory bail to her in the exercise of discretionary powers of this court."

While rejecting the plea, the high court had said that the applicant was earlier granted interim protection from arrest by another bench in a similar case but she was not cooperating with the investigation.

The high court had observed, "Western filmmakers have refrained from ridiculing Lord Jesus or the Prophet but Hindi filmmakers have done this repeatedly and are still doing this most unabashedly with Hindu gods and goddesses."

"This tendency on the part of the Hindi film industry is growing and if not curbed in time, it may have disastrous consequences for the Indian social, religious and communal order," the high court had observed.

On January 19, 2021, an FIR was lodged on the complaint of one Balbir Azad of Raunija village under Rabupura police station of Greater Noida.

In the complaint, Azad alleged that the show depicted Uttar Pradesh and its police in a poor light. The complaint further alleged that the web series had deliberately denigrated Hindu gods and goddesses.

Several other FIRs have also been lodged in states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Bihar and Delhi.

New rules for social media and OTT platforms

The Centre last week brought new guidelines for social media and OTT platforms to ensure compliance with local laws.

The fresh regulations for social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter as well as OTT players such as Netflix require them to remove any content flagged by authorities within 36 hours and setting up a complaint redressal mechanism with an officer being based in the country.

It has also made it mandatory for platforms such as Twitter and WhatsApp to identify the originator of a message that authorities consider to be anti-national and against the security and sovereignty of the country.

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