The Supreme Court yesterday (September 20) issued notice on a special leave petition filed by Yash Raj Films Pvt. Ltd., challenging the order of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), directing the production house to pay Rs. 10,000 as compensation to a consumer who felt disappointed by the exclusion of the Jabra fan song from Fan. The apex court also stayed the operation of the NCDRC order against YRF. A bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanium issued notice on the petition.

It was argued in the petition that the song was meant only for promotional purposes, and that YRF was under no obligation to include it in the film. It was further argued that this fact was widely publicised by all the stakeholders.

One Afreen Fatima Zaidi had complained that she was cheated on account of the song Jabra fan not being shown in the film in spite of being shown in the promos and trailers of the film. She claimed that her children did not eat food after watching the film as they were disappointed that the song was not part of the film, which resulted in a spike in their acidity levels and hospitalisation.

While the District Consumer Forum rejected her plea, the State Commission of Maharashtra allowed her appeal and directed YRF to compensate her with Rs. 10,000 along with litigation cost of Rs. 5,000, in year 2017. A revision petition against the said order was dismissed by the NCDRC in February 2021. The National Commission was of the view that inclusion of the song in the film’s promo, when it is not actually a part of the film, deceives viewers and amounts to unfair trade practice under section 2(1)(r) of the Consumer Protection Act. It observed that if a person likes the song shown in the promo and based upon such liking, decides to visit a cinema hall for watching the said movie for a consideration, he is bound to feel deceived, disappointed and dejected if the song shown in the promo is not found in the film.

In its appeal, YRF argued that the impugned order passed by the NCDRC violates its fundamental right under Article 19(1)(g) inasmuch as the said order imposes unfair conditions upon it as to how it should manage its professional affairs. Accordingly, an application for interim stay was also filed.

YRF also pleaded the following grounds:

(1) It is not the service provider in this case: It said that Afreen availed the services of the cinema hall and not that of the petitioner (producer), and the business arrangement between the producer, distributor and exhibitor of the film had no relevance here. It submitted that there was no privity of contract between the petitioner and Afreen.

(2) NCDRC erroneously held that there was deficiency in service on the part of YRF by not including a disclaimer that the Jabra fan song would not be a part of the film: The song was only meant for the promotion of the film, and the same was not to be a part of the film, and this fact was also well publicised by the petitioner, the star cast and director of the film on multiple occasions. The petitioner placed various promotional material/interviews on record, evidencing the same. YRF also added that it was common industry practice to release certain songs for promotional purpose and not include them while exhibiting the film.

(3) Films are released and offered for viewing in cinemas for the experience of watching the story in its entirety: What scenes/songs/portions that the producer and the director finally choose to retain as part of the film, after editing, and what they finally present to the public, is their prerogative. Members of public cannot demand the story to be presented in a specific manner, suitable to their sensibilities.

It was also argued that mere non-inclusion of the said song had not caused any loss to Afreen and that her claims were exaggerated.

Notice was issued to Afreen and to the CBFC.