Shri S.S. Ahluwalia
Minister of State
Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology
(Government of India)
Electronics Niketan, 6, CGO Complex,
Lodhi Road, New Delhi - 110003
Earlier this year, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the Delhi High Court asking for separate guidelines to ‘regulate’ content on online streaming platforms. All of these cases make references to different platforms and shows and their prayers boil down to referring to the content as being ‘vulgar’ and ‘offensive’.
This is not only highly subjective but the freedom to choose what one wants to or doesn’t impacts their own choices of who they really want to be, which is closely linked to expression.
Fortunately, the Delhi High Court was on the same page as the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) and dismissed the petition filed by the Justice For Rights Foundation. And another such PIL was dismissed by the same High Court soon after. That’s a relief.
However, the issue hasn’t ended with these two litigations. There are fresh PILs filed in other local courts. The Justice for Right and Un-canned Media have filed similar petitions Delhi (yes, again), Bombay and Karnataka High Courts, all of which are waiting to be heard.
The last time hundreds of thousands of Indians wrote to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, internet operators were forced to back off from charging users from every application or site they accessed based on the operator’s deals with the companies. This time someone else with a high moral ground is trying to decide what you get to watch and what is vulgar and safe for you. Really, no one should have the right to decide whether you can watch Game of Thrones, Sacred Games, documentaries, Saas Bahu serials or even cute cat gifs!
While both the Ministries have taken the right position in the Delhi case, which was duly dismissed, we believe that the same position should be shared with the remaining local High Courts.
While the courts will follow their due process in the respective cases, we should urge the MInistry of Electronics and IT (MEITY) to issue a formal statement suggesting it is not in favour of broad style of online (or in the cinema) censorship in the courts.
Afterall, the right to decide what to see and what not to should be ours and ours alone!
1. Information Technology Act, 2000 https://meity.gov.in/content/information-technology-act-2000
2. Delhi High Court Order http://delhihighcourt.nic.in/dhcqrydisp_o.asp?pn=90948&yr=2019