Supreme Court rejects plea to ban ‘Mirzapur 2’; Rejects prayer for the pre-screening committee for OTT broadcasts
Supreme Court bench including UU Chief Justice Lalit and Judge Bela M. Trivedi, on Thursday, rejected a writ request to stop/ban the broadcast of the web series Mirzapur 2 which was proposed to launch on 23.10.2020. The petition further called on the government to set up a pre-screening committee for web series, movies, or other programs that were streamed directly on online platforms.
Clarifying that the show Mirzapur had already been launched in 2020, the court took note of the second prayer of the petition, which had requested a pre-selection committee for shows aired on OTT platforms. CJI Lalit remarked–
“This court has always been consistent that pre-censorship is not something that is permitted. How can there be a pre-selection committee for webseries? (For films released in theaters) there is special legislation. Movie law, there’s so much legislation… Unless you say this OTT business is also part of it… so, so your petition framework has to be of a different order that allows authorities to have a pre -see censorship; like the cinema, where you have a certificate of censorship. You must have so many other things. Whether or not it applies to the OTT business.“
CJI Lalit also orally noted that in order to prequalify content uploaded to OTT platforms on the Internet, there are many issues that need to be considered. He pointed out that the transmission in such cases did not come from India and that in most cases the transmission took place from other countries, even if the viewers or the exhibition were in India. . He said-
“Most satellites are not based in this country. Your petition needs to be a bit more detailed. Anyone who has been harmed after exposure is different. What he’s trying to say is that even what’s projected via the internet, what’s projected in virtual mode, or what’s projected via what’s normally called a satellite dish system, even that should also be (censored).“
The petitioner tried to draw the attention of the bench to his first prayer, regarding the banning of the show “Mirzapur” and said that even though Mirzapur 2 had aired, the show was still releasing another part. The bench said that for this prayer to be considered, the petitioner would have to register the updated facts. CJI said–
“Either way, first and foremost you have to justify this type of prayer – pre-exposure censorship. What is the material to say which legal provision applies? To move forward with the legislative provision and place it clearly under section 19, then everyone has the right to do that. Freedom of expression demands it. The way you worded the petition is not adequate.“
Accordingly, the petitioner was granted the liberty to withdraw his petition with an additional liberty to file an amended petition including all relevant features and legal provisions in support of the submissions to be made in the petition.
The petition stated that it was filed to protect the historical and cultural value of Mirzapur district located in Uttar Pradesh. He said that Mirzapur was where the holy river Ganga meets the Vindhya Range and the city was considered important in Hindu mythology and had a mention in the Vedas. However, according to the petition, the rich cultural value of Mirzapur has been affected due to the launch of the web series “Mirzapur” in which Mirzapur was portrayed as a “city of morons and adulterers”. The petition also pointed out that the series showed a lady belonging to Mirzapur having a sexual affair with her servant and with her father-in-law, which insulted the population of around 30 Lakh residents of Mirzapur and the rich culture of Mirzapur. . Accordingly, the petition called on the Indian government to ban the release of Mirzapur 2, which is a sequel to Mirzapur.
The petition also called for making certification by a government authority mandatory before airing any web series on an online platform. Additionally, the petition sought to establish rules and regulations to censor films that were released on online platforms just as they were censored before they hit theaters and at the box office. He called for an investigation to be carried out against Excel Entertainment, Amazon Prime Video and the actors working in the web series Mirzapur under the Prohibition of Indecent Portrayal of (Women) Act 1986, Cinematography and the Information Technology Act 2000.
Case Title: Sujeet Kumar Singh v. UOI and Ors. WP(C) No. 1171/2020 PIL