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Free speech takes precedence over reputation: Bombay HC

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Jan 29, 2020, 2:02 am IST
Updated : Jan 29, 2020, 2:02 am IST

The single bench had also made various observations on the responsibility that social media influencers needed to show while making comments.

Bombay high court
 Bombay high court

Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Tuesday said freedom of speech is always put on a higher pedestal than reputation as it directed social media influencer Abhijeet Bhansali and Marico Ltd to resolve issues related to a video critical of the latter’s coconut oil brand ‘Parachute’.

A division bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre made the observation while hearing Bhansali’s appeal against an order passed by a single bench of the HC, directing him to pull down the controversial YouTube video, in which he recommends people not to buy ‘Parachute’.

Earlier this month, the single bench, in its order, had noted that the fundamental right of speech so guaranteed in the Constitution cannot be abused by any individual by maligning or disparaging the product of others.

The single bench had also made various observations on the responsibility that social media influencers needed to show while making comments.

The division bench, however, noted that while social media influencers do have an obligation, freedom of speech gets primacy over reputation.

“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 it (opinion) is. Freedom of speech is always put on a higher pedestal than reputation even though both are fundamental rights. We will have to go into this issue while hearing this appeal,” Chief Justice Nandrajog said.

The bench noted that social media influencers are a reality in the modern society and survey shows their followers get influenced by their reviews.

While admitting the appeal made by Bhansali, who goes by online moniker ‘Bearded Chokra’, the division bench directed the parties involved and their lawyers to discuss and resolve issues related to the video.

“All the parties can put forth what they feel is objectionable in the video and may be he (Bhansali) can remove certain portions from the video,” the court maintained.

The court said it would hear the matter further on February 5, until which time the FMCG company must not take any action against Bhansali to take the video offline.

Tags: bombay high court, fmcg