In a watershed moment, the Supreme Court recently overturned a contentious ruling by the Delhi High Court concerning the web series “College Romance” produced by The Viral Fever (TVF). This ruling regarding the TVF show has reignited discussions surrounding freedom of expression within India’s entertainment sphere. 

This legal saga began in 2018 when an FIR was lodged against Episode 5 of Season 1 of TVF’s “College Romance.” Allegations centered on the use of obscene language and the purportedly indecent portrayal of women.

The complainant invoked sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Information and Technology Act, and the Indecent Representation of Women Prohibition Act. Despite these legal challenges, the series persisted in its availability across platforms such as YouTube and SonyLiv.

Petition Against ‘College Romance’

March 2023 saw the Delhi High Court upholding the FIR against the creators of “College Romance.” Central to the court’s decision was the assertion of explicit material and the perceived violations of public decency standards.

In its ruling, the court emphasized the potential detrimental impact of profanity and explicit content on impressionable audiences, thereby underscoring the necessity of upholding linguistic standards and adhering to IT regulations. 

Following the initial FIR, the Delhi High Court in March 2023 upheld the legal action against the creators of “College Romance.” The court’s decision rested on the premise of explicit material and alleged breaches of public decency standards.

Notably, the court emphasized the potential adverse effects of profanity and explicit content on susceptible audiences, reinforcing the need to maintain linguistic propriety and comply with IT regulations. Despite subsequent appeals, the High Court’s ruling stood firm, prompting the case’s escalation to the Supreme Court.

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Observations By The Supreme Court

Upon review, the Supreme Court invalidated all criminal proceedings against “College Romance.” In its critique of the High Court’s judgment, the apex court highlighted the significance of contextual understanding when evaluating content.

Moreover, it contested the imposition of stringent standards for determining obscenity, advocating for the protection of freedom of speech and artistic expression from unwarranted constraints.

The Supreme Court’s verdict not only served as a pivotal moment in the legal discourse surrounding creative liberties but also underscored the judiciary’s commitment to preserving constitutional rights in the digital age.

The Supreme Court quashed all criminal proceedings against the web series “College Romance.” The court criticized the Delhi High Court’s approach, emphasizing the importance of context in assessing content.

It argued against overly strict standards for determining obscenity, asserting that freedom of speech and artistic creativity must be protected from undue restrictions. Additionally, the Supreme Court concluded that Section 67A of the IT Act could not be applied in this case as there was no allegation of any sexually explicit act or conduct in the complaint.

Celebrities’ Reactions To The Verdict

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, notable figures within the entertainment industry expressed their views on the decision. Artists hailed the verdict as a victory for creative freedom, emphasizing the importance of authentic storytelling while acknowledging the responsibility associated with language usage.

“Gangs of Wasseypur” actor Zeishan Quadri told The Tribune, “Even if we are using the language, it has to be authentic. We can’t lose balance. Sometimes makers and actors overdo abusive words, and that’s misuse. At the same time, it’s such a relief to know that someone out there understands that stopping someone to express themselves is a matter of violation of free speech rights.

Actor Abhishek Banerjee also hailed the verdict, telling The Tribune, “I feel using abusive language is common in most parts of India; sometimes it’s meant as a friendly banter, and for some it’s a way to let go of their anger. As long as it’s relevant to the world, a filmmaker will keep showing it in cinemas. There shouldn’t be a problem with using profanity or expletives. We can’t control art in the name of a few public opinions.

The Supreme Court’s intervention in the “College Romance” case has ignited discourse surrounding censorship and artistic expression in India. By quashing criminal proceedings against the creators, the court has sent a resounding message regarding the importance of preserving creative freedom within the entertainment industry.

This landmark ruling serves as a crucial precedent for future legal disputes involving content regulation and artistic autonomy. As the cultural landscape continues to evolve, the judiciary’s commitment to upholding constitutional rights remains integral to fostering a dynamic and inclusive environment for artistic expression.

Sources: The Quint, Live Law, The Print

Feature image designed by Saudamini Seth

Find the blogger: Katyayani Joshi

This post is tagged under: TVF Series, Freedom of Expression, Obscenity, entertainment, landmark, ruling, high court, regulation, artistic autonomy, judiciary, Supreme Court, creative freedom, filmmakers, cinemas, shows, College Romance, TVF Show

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