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Calcutta HC leaves it up to government to censor Paatal Lok

The Calcutta High Court on Friday dismissed a PIL against Amazon Prime Video that asked for some scenes of the show Paatal Lok to be censored. LiveLaw first reported the dismissal. The suit had been filed because one Pranay Rai found the show’s depiction of Nepali minorities. In its order, the court left it open for the government to order Amazon to censor the series, seemingly referring to the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology to use the powers it has been granted under the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Note that “8th respondent” in the below extract likely refers to MEITY:

The 8th respondent shall take a reasoned decision on the representation made by the petitioner, in accordance with law, after giving an opportunity of hearing to the petitioner and the respondents herein and to any other party as the 8th respondent may deem fit and proper and shall dispose of the representation of the petitioner as soon as possible and preferably within a period of four weeks from the date of communication of this order to the 8th respondent.

Needless to say that in the event the 8th respondent finds that certain portions of the aforesaid web series are not fit for being aired for public viewing, the 8th respondent shall pass appropriate orders for blocking the said portions from public viewing.

It is also needless to say that such order may be passed by the 8th respondent only if he is satisfied that he is the appropriate authority having jurisdiction to entertain and determine the petitioner’s representation.

We have not gone into the merits as to whether or not certain portions of the said web series are required to be blocked or as to whether or not the 8th respondent has jurisdiction to entertain the petitioner’s representation. All issues are left open to be decided by the 8th respondent in accordance with law.

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This gives MEITY the wiggle room to ignore the petitioner and let the issue die there; alternatively, they could set a significant precedent by using their authority, maybe for the first time, to tell an OTT streaming service to censor a title. We are reaching out to MEITY to understand how they will be proceeding.

In June, the Punjab & Haryana High Court issued notice on another petition to censor that show, and to regulate streaming services in general. The Supreme Court is hearing a content regulation case, and the Bombay, Karnataka, and Delhi High Courts have dismissed or kept similar petitions on hold. The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has proposed to take over the content jurisdiction on streaming services, while streaming services themselves try to iron out differences to come up with a content self-regulation system.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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