Comedy Central India Temporarily Banned From Airwaves For Obscenity, Supreme Court Overturns

Comedy Central India resolved a matter last week that had seen the comedy channel temporarily suspended from the broadcasting airwaves due to a ruling from the India’s Information and Broadcasting Ministry handed down last year that sought to ban the channel for 10 days for airing content considered to be offensive, reports Nyay Bhushan of the Hollywood Reporter.

The Delhi High Court had upheld the ban, which went into effect last week before being stayed by India’s Supreme Court. Comedy Central India was off the air for six days, whereby viewers were met with a message alerting them of the disconnection and apologizing for the inconvenience.

Sujeet Jain, group general counsel of the media company Viacom18 Media, a joint venture with Viacom and Indian broadcasting group Network 18 that distributes Comedy Central India, provided a statement to Al Arabiya News of the group’s satisfaction with the ruling.

“The Supreme Court today stayed the Delhi High Court order on the suspension of the channel, Comedy Central. We are happy to announce that the channel will resume broadcast this evening.”

John Riti of Paste Magazine reports that the ban was issued against Comedy Central India last year, after the ministry deemed episodes of Stand Up Club and PopCorn TV that aired in 2012 as obscene. They cited dialog and vulgar words derogatory of women to offend good taste and decency, and that the portrayal in the comedy program did not appear suitable for unrestricted public exhibition and children. BBC News India elaborates, saying the episode in question of PopCorn TV showed a character mimicking the act of sex with a set of dummy legs, in different locations.

Further, BBC News also states that in 2010,India suspended Fashion TV (FTV) for 10 days for showing topless models during a show. In 2007, the same channel was suspended for two months for showing scantily-clad models in a show called Midnight Hot.

While Comedy Central India has since returned to the airwaves, the ramifications from this incident could have far-reaching implications that may prevent further censorship and heavy handed punishment. The Supreme Court judgment also issued a notice to the government, challenging the provisions of the law that allow the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to take action against TV channels. The case will be heard again on December 8, during which time it is expected that the court will turn its attention to the propriety of the actions the government should take when challenged with objectionable content by broadcasters in India.