The court came down heavily on the influencer, and also made a larger point about social media influencers
In a landmark judgement, the Bombay High Court on January 16 ruled against a social media influencer who had criticised a popular coconut oil brand on his YouTube channel, Mumbai Mirror has reported.
According to the report, Abhijeet Bhansali, who goes by the name Bearded Chokra on social media, was asked to pull down his video on Marico Industries’ Parachute Coconut Oil. In the video, Bhansali reportedly asks people not to buy the product.
"It is not in dispute that commercial speech is a part of the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution of India. However, it cannot be that fundamental right so guaranteed under the Constitution can be abused by any individual by maligning or disparaging the product of others, as is done in the present case," Justice SJ Kathawalla said in the judgement.
Bhansali, according to the report, has been given a week's time to challenge the judgement and get relief from an appeals court. If he chooses not to challenge the judgement, the video will have to be pulled down, according to the report.
In his defence, Bhansali said there has been a lot of debate on the use of coconut oil, and its implications on health. According to the report, Bhansali said he had read various blogs and international articles on the subject, and that his video was based on those documents and the tests conducted by him in the video.
Bhansali, who contended that he has a master's degree in biotechnology, also said he had not put up the video at the behest of any competitor of Marico's.
The court, however, came down heavily on the influencer, also reportedly making a larger point about social media influencers.
"In my view, social media influencers are aware of the influence they wiled over other audience and that their statements have a magnified and profound impact on their audience... it is apparent that a social media influencer, such as the present Defendant, wields the power to influence the public mind," Justice Kathawalla said."With power also comes responsibility. I do not believe that a social media influencer can deliver statements with the same impunity available to an ordinary person. Such person bears a higher burden to ensure there is a degree of truthfulness in his statements," he added.
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