Fresh trouble for OTT platforms: Are these sites exploiting the right to expression?

The Over-the-top platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+Hotstar have been levied with fresh trouble and preparing for the legal challenge as the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Supreme Court against the platforms by alleging that these applications are abusing the right to expression with having no specific institution to monitor and manage the contents on these platforms. 

The PIL was filed by advocate Shashank Shekhar Jha on Thursday and in his petition, the advocate said that no OTT platforms had signed the self-regulation provided by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting since February. 

The petitioner stated that the OTT platforms have been exploiting the right to expression granted in Article 19 and these applications are against the Right to life of people at large. 

Shekhar Jha had highlighted that the absence of censoring and monitoring mechanisms have been permitting these OTT platforms to abuse the creative liberty and the limitless and free of scanner opportunists are pushing the directors, writers, and producers to create a picture which has more obscene language, more violence, sex, and smoking scenes and these scenes would be prevented if these have been censored and monitored. 

The petition says the visuals and dialogues from the movies are cruel and have been getting highly misused for the commercial benefits of the OTT platforms. The advocate said that the Internet and Mobile Association of India had pushed through the self- regulatory code, which would lead to the setting up of a Digital Content Complaints Committee (DCCC) for regulating content on OTT platforms across India. 

According to reports, the Supreme Court bench comprised of Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian had accepted to hear the litigation and after a brief hearing, the apex court had on Thursday issued notices to the Central government, the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and Internet and the Mobile Association of India and directed these stakeholders to respond to the litigation. 

OTT platforms have recorded an exponential growth during the COVID-19 lockdown as with order and instruction from the government to the people to stay indoors in the wake of the spread of the pandemic, they have developed a new love on the OTT platforms and these platforms have become the only option for the movie industries to release their movies after the government had closed the theaters as part of the lockdown. 

Most of the people have subscribed to the OTT platforms and during the course of lockdown, the OTT platforms had taken over dozens of movies in all languages directly to the hands of the audience and as some of the state governments hadn't permitted the resumption of the theaters, many production houses have been preparing to release the movies on these OTT platforms.