Delhi HC rejects plea to censor Game of Thrones, other web series

The Delhi High Court today dismissed a petition by a lawyer’s organization, Justice For Rights, seeking censoring of online content such as Game of Thrones, Spartacus, Vikings and Sacred Games.

The petition, filed late last year, claimed that such videos constituted “unregulated, uncertified, sexually explicit, vulgar, profane, and legally restricted content”.

The lawyers wanted the court to direct the government to frame guidelines to prevent such content from being shown in India.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and justice V Kameswar Rao had in November sought a response from the central government.

The petition was dismissed today, with the bench noting that there is already enough remedy under the IT Act against such content.

Many people, especially the younger generation, no longer rely on the TV for their entertainment, but depend on mobile apps like Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and ALTBalaji to get their entertainment.

In India, the oldest media face the highest regulatory scrutiny — in line with the norms that prevailed when the media was first introduced in the country.

As such, the toughest censorship norms under the Cinematograph Act are reserved for cinema, while television content is more lightly regulated under the Cable TV Networks Act.

The latest entrant to scene, Internet-based video, is regulated by the IT Act, which is more ‘modern’ compared to the other two.

The strictness of regulation is also proportional to the number of people who watch the video together.

For example, cinema, which is watched by a large number of people in a hall, is subjected to the highest scrutiny, while television, which is watched by a family in their living room is subjected to a lesser degree of monitoring.

Mobile phones and internet content are considered avenues of personal entertainment, and the consumption of entertainment by an individual is considered part of his private rights, and are therefore more strictly protected.

In keeping with this notion, the Supreme Court in 2015 refused to ban online pornography, saying: “Somebody can come to the court and say ‘Look, I am an adult and how can you stop me from watching it within the four walls of my room? It is a violation of Article 21 (right to personal liberty) of the Constitution.'”

However, many online pornographic websites have been blocked since last year on the orders of a court in Uttarakhand. Ministry for Women and Child Development has also attempted to extend the provisions related to obscene magazines to the Internet.