Nagpur-based advocate Divya Ganeshprasad Gontia, represented by well-known advocate Shyam Dewani, recently filed a PIL seeking regulation of web series. The PIL apart from demanding bringing in web series under the scanner of a body like Censor board, also demands strict action against the web series makers, service providers, web portals and other stakeholders for promoting obscenity, vulgarity and violence.
Responding to the PIL, the Division Bench of Bombay High Court, Nagpur Bench, consisting of Justice BP Dharmadhikari and Justice MG Giradkar, has issued show cause notices to Government of India through:
a) Ministry of Information and Broadcasting,
b) Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology,
c) Ministry of Law and Justice
d) Ministry of Home Affairs and
e) Commissioner of Police Nagpur, making them returnable on 31st October, 2018.
While well-known advocate Shyam Dewani assisted by Sahil Dewani represented the petitioner, Additional Solicitor General of India Ulhas Aurangabadkar held brief for various Ministries of the Government of India and Government Pleader Suman Devpujari represented State/Commissioner of Police.
By citing various examples of increasing uncontrolled vulgarities, obscenity, excessive violence, etc., the petition seeks following reliefs:
(a) Direct the Respondent Authorities to take appropriate action against all such Web Services Providers for exhibiting the programs containing obscene, nude, and vulgar scenes/remarks, which are found to be cognizable offences punishable under various provisions of law such as Cinematograph Act, Indian Penal Code, Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act 1986 and Information Technology Act, 2000.
(b) Direct the Respondent No 1 to set a pre-screening Committee before streaming of web shows, any advertisement pertaining to web series, online shows, and movie or any other program which is directly screened/released on online platform by any of the Channels around the Country whether Indian or International;
(c) Direct the Respondent No 1 to frame Guidelines/Policy not to depict/screen/ exhibit any web shows, any advertisement pertaining to web series, online shows, and Movie or any other program, which is directly screened/released on Air without prior approval of the any appropriate committee as soon as it constituted in this behalf;
(d) Direct the Respondents to take appropriate action for striking off all obscene, vulgar and nude scenes and delete offensive dialogs on web series and it should be restricted for public exhibition, in accordance with the provisions of the Cinematograph Act and various other laws.
(e) Direct the Respondents to take all such steps by making strong recognition of children from being access over such adult shows streaming online and also take some measures towards parental control.
f) Direct the Respondents to take all such action as may be permissible in law to restrain internet web service providers from exhibiting/screening of all obscene, vulgar and offensive acts on online platform, which are considered as offences under various provisions of law.
(g) Direct the Respondents to take all such action as may be permissible in law to take appropriate steps to restrain internet web service providers from exhibiting/screening of advertisement of the Programs/shows/web series on online platform and other forms of social media to promote such obscenity etc.
(h) Direct the Respondents to take all such action as may be permissible in law to regulate the broadcast of web shows on public websites in compliance to norms laid under Cinematograph Act and various other provisions of law.
Speaking to Nation Next, advocate Shyam Dewani said, “Web portals are trying to take complete ill advantage of authorities believing that they cannot be regulated by them. Till the time appropriate provisions are made, action should be taken for the obscenity, vulgarity, excessive violence, etc., under the existing provisions of law pointed out in the petition.”