The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed proceedings pending before several High Courts on pleas related to regulation of over-the-top (OTT) platforms.
A Bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud and comprising Justice MR Shah and Sanjiv Khanna passed the order on a plea by advocate Shashank Shekhar Jha seeking establishment of a central body for the purposes of monitoring content broadcast on OTT platforms.
The Central government had filed a transfer petition in the matter seeking transfer of similar petitions pending before various High Courts to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court had issued notice on that transfer petition during an earlier hearing.
When the matter was taken up on Tuesday, Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta submitted that even though the top court had issued notice on the transfer petition, Punjab and Haryana High Court was hearing the case on merits.
At this juncture, Justice DY Chandrachud observed that issuing notice on a transfer petition meant that proceedings pending in High Courts would be stayed.
Nevertheless, the court made it clear in unequivocal terms by stating in its order that there would be a stay on similar proceedings on such petitions across India.
Justice MR Shah remarked that around fifteen to twenty petitions concerning regulating OTT platforms are being heard by different high courts.
Meanwhile, the Central government on Tuesday also filed its affidavit in the matter informing the Supreme Court that the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 have been put in place to regulate online OTT platforms and digital media.
It was submitted that the said Rules were framed after the government received several complaints from civil society and politicians alike regarding the content on online streaming platforms.
The affidavit stated that Centre had amended the allocation of business of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting through an amendment in the Allocation of Business Rules, 1961. Through a gazette notification dated November 9, 2020, it has brought within the purview of the I&B Ministry:
- Digital/online media
- Films and audio-visual programmes made available by online content providers.
- News and current affairs content on online platforms.
Subsequently, the Centre notified the IT Rules, 2021, which aim to regulate content on OTT platforms and to impose a code of ethics for online publishers of news media.
It was thus stated that there is a mechanism in place now for regulation of OTT platforms under the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the recently notified IT Rules, 2021.