Update: Following complaints from the Christian Community, comedy group All India Bakchod issued an unconditional apology to the archdiocese of Bombay and the Christian community for any offence caused to religious sentiments during their AIB Knockout Show. You can read the entire text here.
The group also added that that during our interaction with the archdiocese, both parties agreed that “these matters are best solved by frank, patient conversation, not by pointless rabble-rousing or politicization or by taking up adversarial positions for the sake of eyeballs.”
Earlier: YouTube has been named in a First Information Report (FIR) in Pune for distributing the controversial AIB Knockout video. Actors Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Sonakshi Sinha, director Karan Johar and 14 others have also been named in an FIR. Comedy team All India Bakchod took down its video of its AIB Knockout show following police and government inquiry.
The FIR has been filed under Sections 292 (Distribution of obscene content or lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest), Section 294 (Obscene Act in public place) of the Indian Penal Code and section 67a of IT Act (Publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act, etc. in electronic form). MediaNama tried contacting Bund Garden police station where the FIR was filed, but an officer directed us to contact them later. We will update once we have a statement.
NDTV’s report says that the complainant Wazir Shaikh claims “Ranveer Singh publicly kissed Deepika Padukone and she responded. Both behaved obscenely.” The FIR in Pune finds fault with this for indecent behaviour .
The AIB Knockout, which is inspired by Comedy Central’s Roast, where chosen celebrities are lampooned and subjected to insult humour from a panel of comedians and their peers for the amusement of a wider audience. The video of the show went viral on YouTube and witnessed more than four million views within two days of its release.
All India Bakchod did issue a statement after they pulled down the video and said that they were co-operating with the authorities on the same.
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said his government would act against organisers of the show if it had violated any law. Ranjit Patil, the state minister for home, said websites selling the AIB Roast tickets would also come under the scanner, as indicated by this Hindustan Times report.
We’ve mentioned how this incident highlights a bigger problem with censorship on the Internet. While the web was a simple way to get around censorship, like in the case of Bitto Sabki Lega, it seems increasingly the law system and police is being used to stifle freedom of expression on the Internet. We only need to look at the numerous examples where the police have swooped down on people for liking a status on Facebook or forwarding a message on WhatsApp.
We also wonder why actors Sonakshi Sinha and Deepika Padukone have been mentioned in the FIR, considering that they were members of the audience. Laughing at a joke is now grounds for obscenity?
We’ve come to rely on the liberal nature of the Internet where freedom of expression is guaranteed, because any other traditional platform like television is heavily censored and the whole channel is suspended if “obscene” content is aired on the channel.
It’s strange to see YouTube also included in this, since they effectively have safe harbor under Section 79 of the IT Act. A platform cannot be held responsible for the content transmitted on it. Increasingly, we’re seeing the police ignore aspects of the law, and hold platforms responsible for content and services transmitted via them. This is currently being debated in the Supreme Court, and MouthShut.com is challenging the provisions of the rules framed related to Section 79.
This is an important year for safe harbor for intermediaries in India, with challenges to online taxi booking platforms, YouTube, e-commerce platforms and others. We’ve written earlier about the state of online warranties, and how intermediaries have the best of both worlds. Something is going to give.