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Freedom of Speech On A Higher Pedestal Than Reputation; Bombay HC Asks Vlogger and Marico to Sit Across The Table

Nitish Kashyap
29 Jan 2020 1:58 AM GMT
Freedom of Speech On A Higher Pedestal Than Reputation; Bombay HC Asks Vlogger and Marico to Sit Across The Table
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The Bombay High Court on Tuesday heard the appeal filed by Abhijit Bhansali, a popular social media vlogger against a previous order by a single bench allowing Marico Limited's injunction application against him, directing him to take down a video that allegedly has disparaging remarks against Parachute oil, which is manufactured by Marico.

Division bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre heard Bhansali's commercial appeal against Justice Kathawalla's 83-page judgement and observed-

"The existing law on defamation says no one can make a false statement of a fact. An opinion cannot be held as a fact, irrespective of how bad the opinion is.

Freedom of speech is always put on a higher pedestal than reputation even though both are fundamental rights."

Court said that the above issue will be decided while hearing the appeal and admitted it.

Chief Justice Nandrajog further observed-

"If the society is reposing trust in what they (social media influencers) say then that trust comes with an obligation. The problem with the internet and social media nowadays is that there is so much information that people mistake it for knowledge,"

Senior Advocate Virag Tulzapurkar appeared on behalf of the defendant Marico and Dr.Abhinav Chandrachud for appellant Bhansali.

In the impugned order, Justice Kathawalla had said-

"A social media influencer who has or claims to have a sound knowledge on what they claim their niche is and uses that knowledge to influence people in believing and subscribing to the same set of ideas or thoughts they are trying to propagate on social media, have the power to influence people, to change attitudes and mindset...whether their audience is significant or small, they impact the lives of everybody who watches their content. They have to ensure what they are publishing is not harmful or offensive."

The division bench asked both parties to sit across the table and discuss what is objectionable in the said video wherein Bhansali asked viewers not to buy Parachute.

"All the parties can put forth what they feel is objectionable in the video and may be he can remove certain portions from the video," Court said.

The matter has now been adjourned till February 5.

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