Observing that that the challenge for enacting appropriate law or guidelines to regulate content on social media and OTT platforms needs urgent attention, the Delhi High Court has ruled that the language used in TVF web series 'College Romance' does not pass the "morale decency community test, transgresses into area of obscenity".
A single judge bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma observed that use of vulgar language in public domain and social media platforms which are open to children of tender age needs to be taken seriously.
"In the light of above, this Court draws the attention of the Ministry of Information and Technology to the situations which are fast emerging on a daily basis and to take steps for enforcing stricter application of its rules qua the intermediaries as notified in Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 and make any laws or rules as deemed appropriate in its wisdom, in light of the of the observations made in this judgment," the judgment noted.
The court stated that an individualistic choice - which is not the choice of the majority of people of this country - cannot be portrayed as a choice of that majority and to be broadcasted on the ground or assumption that youth of this country speak such foul or profane language.
The court, therefore, held that individualism of choice of using such profane language full of expletives has to give way to the majoritism of people who want to speak and hear civil language, free of expletives, for themselves and for their children.
“The court had to watch the episodes of the web series with the aid of earphones, in the chamber, as the profanity of the language used was of the extent that it could not have been heard without shocking or alarming the people around and keeping in mind the decorum of language which is maintained by a common prudent man whether in professional or public domain or even with family members at home,” the judgment further stated.
The court was hearing petitions moved by TVF Media Labs, Casting Director of web series 'College Romance' and its lead actors against the orders passed by the sessions court and ACMM for registration of FIR against them.
The court upheld an order of the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) of registering an FIR against TVF, the show's director Simarpreet Singh and actor Apoorva Arora.
The ACMM vide order dated September 17, 2019, directed the concerned SHO to register FIR against the petitioners under appropriate provision of law after conducting investigation into the allegations of the complainant. In the revision petition filed by petitioners before sessions court, ASJ vide order dated November 11, 2020, modified the ACMM’s order to the extent that FIR be registered only under section 67A of Information and Technology Act and rest of the sections related to IPC be dropped.
The court upheld the order of the ASJ to the extent whereby it held that section 292 and 294 IPC are not made out and 67A IT Act is made out. However, the bench said, it is modified to the extent of dropping offence under Section 67 of the IT Act.
“It is clarified that the direction to register FIR in the present case does not include a direction to arrest any of the accused/petitioner,” the court said.
The court added that in case the particular episode in question is still posted on any YouTube channel without classification, appropriate remedial steps will be taken by the platform, as per law, rules and guidelines of the IT Act issued by the Ministry of Information and Technology.