The already muddy waters around censorship of streaming content in India grew murkier on Friday with the country’s Minister for Information & Broadcasting and the Supreme Court sending out diametrically opposite messages.
Controversy erupted in recent days over Amazon Prime Video India original series “Tandav,” which caused offence to some Hindus, forcing the streamer to delete some scenes and apologize.
Amazon India head of originals Aparna Purohit had applied for anticipatory bail after being named in a court case, but the Allahabad High Court rejected it last week. On Friday, upon appeal from Purohit, the Supreme Court granted her protection from arrest, but in the process issued statements that will puzzle the industry.
Last week, the Indian government had released guidelines that would govern Indian streamers, including Netflix, Amazon and Disney Plus Hotstar, which had already adopted a self-regulation tool kit.
On Thursday, Information & Broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar met with representatives of streaming platforms including ALTBalaji, Disney Plus Hotstar, Amazon, Netflix, Jio, ZEE5, Viacom18, Shemaroo and MX Player and assured them that “the rules focus on self-classification of content instead of any form of censorship.” He also clarified that in the self-regulating body, no member will be appointed by the government. If complaints remain unsolved at the self-regulatory level, the government will create an inter-departmental committee to look at those.
These statements were directly contradicted on Friday while the Supreme Court was granting protection to Purohit. The court had asked the government to submit the guidelines and upon going through them, observed: “There is no teeth. No power of prosecution. These are just guidelines. No mechanism to control it. Without legislation you cannot control it.”
In response to this, India’s Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that the government would prepare a draft law and submit it to the court.