Maharashtra Cyber has booked the directors or owners of various Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms and websites, including Ekta Kapoor's ALTBalaji, for allegedly showing obscene content. Police said that the FIR was lodged on a social activist's complaint, and summons will be sent to the heads of these platforms on Tuesday. Their management will be asked to take down their content and arrests may be made if deemed necessary, the police said.
A senior police officer said the complainant had learnt about a few OTT platforms after he came across news of a man being held for shooting pornographic content featuring young girls. He then approached Maharashtra Cyber Department and lodged a First Information Report (FIR) on November 6, under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Information Technology (IT) Act and Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act.
According to a statement released by Maharashtra Cyber, OTT platforms like ALTBalaji, Hotshot, Flizmovies, Feneo, Kukoo, Neoflix, Ullu, Hotmasti, Chikooflix, Primeflix, Wetflix and other websites had been hosting obscenity and pornographic content and had been named in the FIR, following which their directors or owners have been booked.
"A number of struggling and B-grade actresses were a part of these obscene contents uploaded on the platforms, but will not be treated as accused. They will be treated as victims as it was their helplessness that led them to be a part of such acts," said a senior police officer who did not wish to be named.
"The videos uploaded on the OTT platforms and websites are extremely obscene and it is likely that the actresses depicted in the videos have been exploited, lured or compelled to perform the obscene acts. It can have disastrous consequences on young minds and can lead to erosion of dignity of women," said Yashasvi Yadav, Special Inspector General of Maharashtra Cyber Department.
The directors or owners of these platforms and websites will be sent legal summons on Tuesday, asking them to be present for enquiry, the police said.
When contacted on the allegations, ALTBalaji chose not to comment.
Police also claimed that there has been a 600 percent rise in the number of pornographic sites mushrooming in the country, making India third in the world in the list of adult content screening. Recent data revealed that Indians were leading in consumption of pornography, reporting a 95 per cent spike in traffic on adult sites during the initial three-week lockdown. India had registered a 20 per cent jump in consuming pornographic content even before the official restrictions kicked in late March. Although several Indian telecom operators have blocked a number of adult sites, their content still can be accessed on mirror domains.
This is the second FIR lodged by the Maharashtra Cyber Department, the first being wherein a 25-year-old man was arrested for allegedly siphoning money from several persons' online payment accounts. The state cyber cell's role until recently was to do research and analysis and provide technical assistance to local police. The home minister, however, recently authorized the cell to register FIRs and bring cases to conclusion.