The Punjab and Haryana High Court Issues Notices on Plea Against The Web Series, “Paatal Lok”

On 15 June 2020, the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the case of Gurdeepinder Singh Dhillon v. Union of India and Ors issued notice to Central and State Governments in a plea asking for regulation of the content in the web series “Paatal Lok” streamed on Amazon Prime.

Order by: Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi. 

Parties:

  • The petition was filed by Gurdeepinder Singh Dhillon, represented by Advocate R.S. Randhawa. 
  • The petitioner has approached the HC under Article 226 and Article 227 of the Constitution to seeking a writ of mandamus for the regulation of content of web series “Paatal Lok” being broadcasted by Respondent No. 7 OTT Platform i.e. Amazon Prime Videos.

Arguments by Petitioner:

  • The Petitioner has argued that the content is “illegal, anti-social, vulgar, abusive, minority oppressive and anti-national” and is being broadcasted without the approval of any Government authority.
  • The content being aired on such platforms should get prior government approval or authentication before being aired. 
  • The petitioner has also sought a direction to the State Government to register First Information Report (FIR) against the makers of Paatal Lok. 
  • This would include the producer of Paatal Lok, Anushka Sharma.
  • The broadcaster of Paatal Lok, Amazon Prime Videos, who is currently broadcasting the show on their platform.

    The allegations made by the petitioner were:
  • The third episode namely, “History of Violence” was intentionally made to augment communal tension.
  • Caste based clashes were emphasized portraying two particular castes in a bad light. 
  •  An episode set in Punjab also used caste-based abusive language which leads to animosity between the people belonging to those two castes.
  • In an episode, members of the Sikh community referred to a boy as ‘Manjaar’, which as a portrayal was not only criminal but also defamatory. 
  • The members of the Sikh community were also portrayed as oppressors of society in general and women in particular. 

    The Petitioner has argued that broadcasting this content amounts to a violation of the following:
  • IPC- Section 295A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs)
  • IT Act 2000 – Section 67 (Punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form), 
  • IT Act 2000 – Section 67A (Punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act, etc., in electronic form),
  • IT Act 2000 – Section 67B (Punishment for publishing or transmitting of material depicting children in sexually explicit act, etc. in electronic form,
  • Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act 1986- Section 4 read with Section 6 (Prohibition of publication or sending by post of books, pamphlets, etc., containing indecent representation of women).

Court’s Order dated 15 June, 2020

  • The Court issued notices to all the respondents viz. Central and State Governments, along with the Producers, Directors, Writers and Broadcasters of the content.
  • The Court has asked the Union of India to file their reply.
  • The matter has been adjourned to hearing on 2 July 2020.

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