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SC stays arrest of Amazon Prime’s India head, says centre’s new OTT rules ‘mere guidelines’

The Supreme Court on March 5 stayed the arrest of Amazon Prime’s India head Aparna Purohit, one of the accused in the case linked to controversial web series ‘Tandav’.

The bench headed by Justices Ashok Bhushan and R Subhash Reddy told Purohit’s counsel that the interim protection from arrest is subject to her cooperation with the investigating officials.

The apex court also observed that the new IT rules – aimed at self-regulation of digital media outlets and over-the-top (OTT) platforms, are only guidelines and “lack the teeth” to be used for penal action.

“The Centre’s regulations on social media are mere guidelines, do not have provision for action against digital platforms,” news agency PTI quoted the bench as saying.

The court, while putting an interim stay on the arrest of Purohit, also issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government on her anticipatory bail plea.

The FIR against the Amazon Prime India head, along with the director and cast of Tandav, was registered in Uttar Pradesh’s Noida in January.

The web series drew flak for alleged blasphemous depiction of Hindu deities.

The accused were booked under IPC sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295 (defiling place of worship with intent to insult), 505(1)(b) (public mischief) and 505(2) (statements promoting hatred)

The Allahabad High Court had, on February 25, declined Purohit’s plea seeking interim protection from arrest.

Against the backdrop of the controversy over Tandav, the Centre issued the new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 on February 25.

The new rules made it mandatory for digital media outlets and OTT platforms to form self-regulatory body which should effectively address complaints related to the content.

Union Information & Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar, in a meeting with representatives of Alt Balaji, Hotstar, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Jio, Zee5 and other major OTT platforms on March 4, clarified that “no member will be appointed by the government in the self-regulatory bodies”.

The IT rules had also drawn criticism for a provision which allows the government to block internet content under emergency cases. The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, however, pointed out that such a provision existed since 2009.

“It is to inform that this provision is exactly the same as being exercised by the Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY) since the past eleven years under the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009,” it said in a statement issued on February 27. Moneycontrol

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