A web series, "College Romance", was in the spotlight as the Delhi High Court, in strong remarks, on Monday said its sexually explicit language could corrupt impressionable minds as the content was widely available. The court backed an earlier order to file an FIR against the platform and its actors.
"College Romance", streaming on the OTT platform TVF, has obscene, lascivious and profane content, said the High Court, asking the government to take steps to check the language on such platforms.
"The power of obscenity and sexual explicitness of language used in this web series... cannot be undermined and it has a definite effect of depraving and corrupting the minds of people, especially the impressionable minds," said Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma.
The judge said she found the language "so obscene and vulgar" that she had to use earphones to watch episodes.
"The court had to watch the episodes with the aid of earphones, in the chamber, as the profanity of language used was of the extent that it could not have been heard without shocking or alarming the people around and keeping in mind the decorum of language which is maintained by a common prudent man whether in professional or public domain or even with family members at home," the judgment said.
"Most certainly, this court notes that this is not the language that nation's youth or otherwise citizens of this country use, and this language cannot be called the frequently spoken language used in our country," it said.
The judge said the makers of the series should face action under Section 67 that deals with "lascivious" content and 67 (A) related to publishing or spreading sexually explicit content. But the direction to file an FIR does not include a direction to arrest anyone.
Judge Sharma said the court's task was tough as it had to strike a delicate balance between free speech and freedom of expression and transmitting the series to the general audience, without proper classification of obscene content as it conjures with the words "sexually explicit acts".
"Words and languages are very powerful medium and needless to say, words have the power to paint and draw a picture at the same time," the court said.
The High Court also asked the government to take steps to strictly enforce IT rules and ethics codes for intermediaries.
The bench said, "The task of the Court in this case has been tough as it had to strike a delicate balance between free speech and freedom of expression and transmitting to all without classification the content which is obscene, profane, lascivious, sexually explicit in spoken language as it conjures with the words 'sexually explicit acts'".
The court was hearing a petition by TVF challenging an order of September 17, 2019, asking for an FIR.
"College Romance" is aired on internet platforms such as YouTube, TVF web portal and mobile Apps.
The case involved Episode 5 of Season 1 of the series, which aired in September 2018. The episode, explicitly titled "Happily F***ed Up", allegedly featured vulgar and obscene language and "represented women in an indecent or obscene" manner.
A complaint alleged that vulgar words have been used throughout the series but that episode "crossed all limits" of vulgarity and internet obscenity. The show was available freely on YouTube, it said.