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With over 5 crore cases pending in Indian judiciary, Kerala High Court delves into how long should reviewers wait before reviewing a movie

The report further added steps such as limiting one's review to websites certified by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), asking vloggers to refrain from using profanity and sarcasm as well as avoiding story spoilers.

As the number of unaddressed cases in different courts continued to pile up, the Kerala High Court decided to focus on the matter of how long critics should wait to post film review. Senior barrister Syam Padman, who was appointed as the Amicus Curiae by the Kerala High Court Justice Devan Ramachandran, suggested a “48-hour cooling-off period” to review a film.

He has proposed many new regulations, including the introduction of a 48-hour waiting time before reviews of newly released movies can be published. The purpose of this “cooling-off period” is to shield audiences from rapid unfavourable reactions and give them time to establish their own opinions free from the undue influence of social media pundits. The report included provisions for rules governing influencer evaluations on social media platforms in the absence of existing standards or codes of conduct.

Another suggestion is the creation of a special webpage run by the cyber cell to handle grievances about “review bombing” or the deluge of reviews with primarily critical comments. The report acknowledged the dual potential of social media influencers to positively or negatively impact films and emphasised their significant impact on public decisions regarding what to watch.

As a response, it called for the Central Consumer Protection Authority’s Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022 to be followed as well as the creation of ethical standards and regulatory oversight for movie reviewers on digital platforms to draw a clear distinction between malicious targeting and constructive criticism.

The Amicus Curiae report also stated that reviewers should adhere to the Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022 published by the Central Consumer Protection Authority for Influencer Advertising in Digital Media, if they wished to participate in paid film promotion by assessing trailers or any other sort of advertisements.

The report further added steps such as limiting one’s review to websites certified by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), asking vloggers to refrain from using profanity and sarcasm as well as avoiding story spoilers. It mentioned that reviewers ought to concentrate on offering “constructive criticism” rather than disparaging a film. The analysis also stated that to assure accuracy, vloggers should fact-check reviews.

The report noted, “Vloggers must avoid revealing major plot points or spoilers in reviews, especially during the initial 48-hour period post-release. Spoiler-free discussions allow audiences to enjoy a film without having key moments ruined. Disrespectful language, personal attacks, or derogatory remarks towards filmmakers, actors, or crew members are strictly prohibited. They should provide constructive criticism rather than simply tearing a film apart. Critiques should focus on specific aspects of the movie such as plot, character development, cinematography, and sound design, offering insights that can help filmmakers improve.”

According to the report, the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry should be entrusted with formulating regulations governing the movie evaluations that social media influencers post on websites such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and so forth.

The case started as a result of a request made by the Kerala Film Producers Association and director of “Aromalinte Adyathe Pranayam” Mubeen Rauf for a court injunction prohibiting vloggers and social media influencers who review films from posting feedback for at least seven days after the movie’s premiere. The petitioner claimed that this practice hurts the whole film business by undermining filmmakers’ creative efforts and causing enormous financial losses.

“Reviews are intended to inform and enlighten, but not to destroy and extort,” Justice Ramachandran’s one-judge bench had stated during a previous hearing in November 2023. The high court has taken issue with movie critics who post their work online without following any rules and are neither accredited nor registered with any organisation.

The judge ruled that the “writ petition of individuals behind the films cannot be sacrificed at the altar of freedom of expression asserted by individuals who seem to be under the impression that they are not governed by any parameter or regulations, particularly when there is nothing on record to show that any of them are registered or akin to journalists or such other service providers.”

The report made supplementary suggestions such as keeping an eye on social media and review sites to make sure the new rules are being followed, educating the public, reviewers, and filmmakers about the moral obligations and legal ramifications of film reviewing and working with key players in the industry to create a thorough response plan against nefarious review practices and review bombing.

Cases pending in Indian courts cross the 5-crore mark

According to 2023 reports, the Supreme Court’s stockpile of cases has grown by more than 10,000 over the past five months, from 69,766 on 1st July to 80,040 on 1st December. The previous record was for three years, from March 2020 to July 2023, for the addition of 10,000 cases to the apex court backlog. Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal informed the Lok Sabha that there were over 4.4 crore cases outstanding in district and subordinate courts, in addition to over 61.7 lakh cases remaining in the 25 high courts. This brings the total number of cases pending in all courts in the nation to over 5 crore.

He mentioned, “As per data retrieved from the Integrated Case Management System (ICMIS) by the Supreme Court of India, as of July 1, there are 69,766 cases pending in the Supreme Court. The total number of cases pending in the high courts and the district and subordinate courts as of July 14 are 60,62,953 and 4,41,35,357 respectively, as per information made available on National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG).”

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