“The respondents, subject to further orders, are called upon to block streaming, broadcasting, telecasting or otherwise making available the content of the Episode No.1 of the Series 1 of the documentary, Crime Stories: India Detective, titled ‘A Murdered Mother’ on Netflix,” read an interim order by the Karnataka High Court directing Netflix to take down an episode from its platform. The order, passed by Justice B.M. Shyam Prasad, also calls for Netflix to respond to its notice by October 21, 2021.
The episode documents a probe conducted by Bengaluru police investigating the murder of Nirmala Chandrasekhar by her daughter Amrutha, allegedly, with the help of Sridhar Rao, according to The News Minute.
The High Court passed the order after hearing the petition filed by Sridhar Rao who is undergoing trial for multiple offences punishable under Sections 302 and 307, 212, 201 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, as per the copy of the order which has been reviewed by MediaNama.
This is not the first instance of a High Court ordering Netflix to take down an episode as the streaming giant was earlier directed to block a segment on Bad Boy Billionaires: India. The role played by courts in adjudicating issues of censorship might be a sign of how India deals with sensitive content in the future given that the fate of the controversial Information Technology (IT) Rules, 2021, hangs in balance.
What does the petition argue?
According to the order, the petition argues that the content “prejudices the petitioner’s defence as it contains the interview recorded during the investigation and video recording of a purported confession”.
“The petitioner’s right to a free and fair trial is severely prejudiced,” Sridhar Rao’s advocate Ayantika Mondal said.
The petition also added that the episode violates the petitioner’s privacy, and exposes the petitioner to “ridicule and harassment by the public at large”.
Instances of censorship on streaming platforms
In the last two years, streaming platforms have engaged in multiple acts of self-censorship:
- In an unprecedented move, Netflix put out a censored version of the film Mission Impossible: Fallout, after delaying its release without an explanation for weeks. It also removed an Indian map with boundaries disputed by the government from the Netflix Original series Street Food: Asia [read]
- Netflix also put out a censored version of the show Vikings in India and prioritised the inclusion of a Hindi dub for the show over streaming the show as intended. [read]
- Amazon Prime Video censored Borat Subsequent Moviefilm in India, blurring a world map to obscure the country’s boundaries with Pakistan and China. Amazon also added a disclaimer to the beginning of the film, something it hasn’t appeared to have done for the copies of the film released in other markets.
- ZEE5 suspended the release of Tamil web series Godman after an online outrage cycle that included a senior retired bureaucrat and a Rajya Sabha MP, who reached out personally to Zee’s Subhash Chandra to call off the show’s release. [read]
- ALT Balaji and ZEE5 censored an episode of XXX: Uncensored after people objected to its depiction of a military officer’s wife making her lover put on his uniform in a sex scene. [read]
- Hotstar blocked an episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver about Narendra Modi and the rise of Hindu extremism in India.
- ZEE5 edited a sketch of an Indian freedom fighter out of a TV show after the sketch’s appearance on a wanted board in the background of a shot caused outrage online. [read]
- I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar intervened to censor a ZEE5/ALT Balaji show [read]
- In its fifth instance of censorship in 2020, ZEE5 pulled and later, reinstated the Pakistani show Churails from its platform in its country of origin. [read]
- Hotstar reportedly censored mentions of beef and ham in the cartoon DuckTales. [read]
- Amazon Prime Video censored Tandav in the face of mounting police complaints and court cases resulting from a backlash over a play-within-a-play scene where a character plays the role of Shiva on stage.
- Netflix chose not to release Record of Ragnarok in India and refused to comment why. The show prominently features a fictionalised version of Shiva, who is depicted as a destructive fighter.
- After the backlash to the Amazon Prime Video series Tandav by right-wing groups, a web series helmed by Vishal Bhardwaj on the hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC 814 was dropped by a streaming platform.
Read the full list here.
- After court battles, Netflix releases Bad Boy Billionaires, minus episode on Ramalinga Raju
- Filmmakers Circulate Petition Against Changes To Increase Censorship Of Films
- I&B Ministry’s Draft Cinematograph Bill 2021 Proposes More Powers For Government To Censor Films
- Netflix Chooses Not To Release Anime Series Featuring Shiva In India, Refuses To Comment
- OTTs like Netflix, Amazon vetting content scripts following Tandav fury: Report
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