Indian Court Overturns Ban on Comedy Central

The ten-day suspension of the channel for airing scenes deemed “obscene” and “derogatory to women” has been revoked by court order.

NEW DELHI – Comedy Central India was back on air Tuesday after a court order overturned a 10-day suspension of the channel issued by India's Information and Broadcasting Ministry. The channel went off-air Saturday after the country's Information and Broadcasting Ministry deemed scenes from episodes of Stand Up Club and Popcorn TV “offensive” and “derogatory to women.”

Comedy Central is run here by joint venture Viacom18 Media which filed an appeal in the Delhi High Court challenging the ministry's notification. In a ruling passed Tuesday, the court ruled in favor of Viacom18 and set aside the 10-day ban. While details of the court order are still awaited, a Viacom18 spokesperson confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that the channel was back on air Tuesday shortly after the order was passed.

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In its notification against Comedy Central issued earlier this month which led to the 10-day ban, the I&B Ministry outlined what was considered offensive by the authorities regarding the two programs. An episode of Stand Up Club aired last May, carried "obscene dialog and vulgar words derogatory to women... The program showed a man performing an act of stand-up comedy and mouthing vulgar words accompanied by obscene and suggestive gestures and gyration. During his performance the man was shown uttering dialog denigrating women, indecently and crudely referred to sex organs of men and women and the sing-song rendition by the man sought to pornographically describe the male lust, depicting women as a commodity of sex.”

Referring to various provisions in India's Cable Television Networks Rules set in 1994, the Ministry pointed out that one of the rules provides that no program can be broadcast "which denigrates women through the depiction in any manner of the figure of a woman, her form or body or any part thereof in such a way as to have the effect of being indecent, or derogatory to women, or is likely to deprave, corrupt or injure the public morality or morals."

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Outlining its objections against an episode of the second show Popcorn TV (a prank show aired last June) the notification outlined how the program's crew "performed some strange and absurd acts... One of the crew pranksters is shown standing opposite a wall in a shop, holding a pair of dummy legs from its thighs and making suggestive movements as if having sex." Elaborating that the prankster repeated these actions in other locations during the show, the notification stated that "these visuals appeared vulgar, obscene, offended good taste and decency and were not suitable for unrestricted public exhibition."

Comedy Central was launched here in 2012 by Viacom18, which claims the channel reaches about 20 million households in India.

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