The Bombay High Court has sought additional information from the Maharashtra State government, Mumbai police and the ministry of information and broadcasting in a public interest litigation (PIL) against the organizers of the All India Bakchod Knockout show, reports the Indian Express . The high court, however, allowed comedy troupe All India Bakchod to intervene in the PIL.
The PIL filed by one Dr Sharmila Ghuge through her lawyer Shyam Dewani, violates Sections 292 and 294 of the Indian Penal Code (obscenity in public), Section 295-A of the IPC (hurting religious sentiments). The PIL further alleges that the use of smutty and vulgar gestures during the show and indecorous and undignified remarks on women with reference to rape violates Section 23 of the Indecent Representation of Women’s Act.
All India Bakchod members Tanmay Bhat, Gurusimran Khamba, Rohan Joshi and Ashish Shakya through their lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani have sought a dismissal of the PIL as it affects their livelihood directly and violates their fundamental rights. They also argued that the PIL approached the court directly and did not register a complaint with any government arm or police.
It’s worth noting that All India Bakchod has already issued an apology to the Archdiocese of Bombay for offending the sentiments of the Christian community.
Earlier last week a first information report (FIR) in Pune named YouTube and actors Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Sonakshi Sinha and director Karan Johar among others for distributing the controversial video. 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).
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’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.