IPRMENTLAW WEEKLY HIGHLIGHTS (January 3– 9)

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PIL Filed Against SS Rajamouli’s ‘RRR’ At Telangana High Court

A Public Interest Petition (PIL) was filed by Alluri Soumya a student hailing from West Godavari district in the Telangana High Court seeking not to issue a Censor Certificate and restrain the producer of ‘Roudram Ranam and Rudiram’ (RRR) to release the movie.

The complainant claimed that the makers allegedly distorted the illustrious history of great independence fighters Alluri Sita Ramaraju and Komaram Bheem (played by actors Ram Charan and Jr NTR, respectively) in order to offend the genuine heroes’ and supporters. According to the complainant, the film is destroying the history of the freedom fighters Alluri Sita Ramaraju and Komaram Bheem.

She requested a postponement of the ‘RRR’ film’s release and that the SS Rajamouli directed film should not be issued a censor certificate. The case was heard by Justices Ujjal Bhuyan and Venkateswara Reddy.

On January 7, the film was slated to be released in theatres. The film’s release had been then postponed due to the Omicron fear in the country, as well as the Coronavirus outbreak.

‘Filmmaker Has Artistic Freedom’: Kerala High Court Impleads State Police Chief To Prove Statutory Violation In Publication Of Churuli

The Kerala High Court suo motu impleaded the State Police Chief and ordered the police team to watch movie Churuli. The team is subsequently asked to file a statement to report if there was any statutory violation in exhibiting the Malayalam movie ‘Churuli’. The Court passed the direction in the writ petition filed against the movie citing excessive use of abusive and obscene language

Justice P.V. Kunhikrishnan while hearing the matter also noted that prima facie, he was of the opinion that no statutory provision was violated by the publication of the film:

The observation came in a plea filed alleging that the Lijo Jose Pellissery- directed film used offensive words excessively in a deliberate attempt to garner more attention to it.

It was contended that the Censor Board has violated the rules and regulations by sanctioning the release of the movie and that such a release even attracts provisions of IPC.

The court was though of the view that it cannot interfere with the artistic freedom of a filmmaker unless there is any violation of laws. The Court noted that the petitioner had conveniently avoided narrating the plot of the film in the writ petition but rather picked certain instances where abusive words were used by the characters. The prayer in the petition was to remove the film from the OTT platform.

The Judge observed that the Court cannot direct the same and that it was the discretion of the artist. It was also held that since the movie was broadcast on an OTT platform and not a movie theatre, there was no question of the viewers being held captive audience to the film.

Case Title: Peggy Fen v. Central Board of Film Certification & Ors.

Delhi High Court Issues Notice On TV Today’s Plea For Placing Additional Documents On Record In Suit Against Newslaundry

The Delhi High Court has issued notice on an application filed by TV Today Network seeking to place additional documents in the form of videos transcripts on record in it’s suit against news portal Newslaundry seeking damages of Rs. 2 crores for copyright infringement and defamation of its anchors, management and employees.

Justice Asha Menon granted liberty to the plaintiff counsel to point out which part of the transcripts of the videos sought to be placed on record are not already on record in the form of videos.

The Court kept the question open as to whether the videos sought to be placed on record were additional transcripts or not.

Advocates Nandita Rao and Nipun Katyal appearing for the defendants objected to the maintainability of the application which was filed under Order 7 Rule 14 in view of the amended CPC.

It was argued that what was being sought to be filed as additional documents were not the mere transcripts of the videos already filed. It was submitted that the videos sought to be placed on record would be a new document altogether.

Previously, Newslaundry had agreed to take down its video making commentary on the suit.

The suit alleges that Newslaundry had uploaded various videos on its website including social media platforms, infringing TV Today Network’s copyright. It is also alleged that the online news portal also made “unfair, untrue and disparaging defamatory remarks” about its anchors as well as the management. The company has therefore sought permanent and mandatory injunction against Newslaundry, it’s CEO Abhinandan Sekhri and others.

Journalist & Founder Of ‘The New Indian’ Aarti Tikoo Moves Delhi High Court Challenging Twitter’s Decision To Lock Her Account

Journalist and Founder of The New Indian’ Aarti Tikoo has moved the Delhi High Court challenging Twitter Inc’s decision to lock her account. It is Tikoo’s case that she had posted a tweet for calling out the actions of ‘Kashmiri Islamists’ on Twitter for threatening her cousin.

According to the plea, on December 14, 2021, Tikoo’s cousin participated in a Twitter Space discussion wherein he was called an ‘Indian Agent’ and other allegations were made against him.

Thereafter the next day, the following tweet was posted by her:

“My brother who lives in Srinagar, being openly threatened by jihadi terrorists sitting in Kashmir-India & their handlers in Pakistan, UK & US. Is anyone watching? Are we sitting ducks waiting to be shot dead by Islamists or will you crackdown on them?”

Twitter had then locked her account the same day.

Referring to the transcripts of the threats issued to her cousin on Twitter, Tikoo has stated in the petition that Twitter’s action of locking her account is violative of Articles 14, 19 and 21 inasmuch as it is an impairment of her right to free speech and is arbitrary.

Accordingly, the plea seeks quashing of Twitter’s decision of locking her account apart from deletion of the said tweet.

Trademark Infringement Suit Has To Be Stayed Till Disposal Of Rectification Proceedings Before Registrar: Delhi High Court

The Delhi High Court has made it clear that under Section 124 of the Trade Marks Act, 1999, when rectification proceedings are pending, the suit against infringement of Trademark has to be stayed, pending final disposal of such proceedings.

Justice Asha Menon thus stayed the suit filed by Hamdard Dawakhana, against alleged infringement of its registered trademark ‘Rooh Afza’. The Bench observed,

“In the light of Section 124(1)(b)(i) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999, the suit is stayed pending the final disposal of the rectification application filed by the plaintiffs. On the conclusion of those proceedings, either side may move an application for listing of the suit before the court.”

It however clarified that even during the pendency of rectification application, interim injunction may be granted by the Court. Reliance was placed on Section 124(5) of the 1999 Act and a 2014 Division Bench judgment in Raj Kumar Prasad v. Abbott Healthcare (P) Ltd.

Accordingly, the Bench proceeded to consider whether the defendant’s registered trademark, ‘Dil Afza’ was intended to create confusion in the minds of consumers. It concluded that no case has been made out to restrain the defendant from marketing its sharbat under the name ‘Dil Afza’.

Justice Menon thus dismissed the application for stay filed by Hamdard Dawakhana under Order 39 Rule 1 and 2 of CPC.

Read order here.

Javed Akhtar Seeks Dismissal Of Defamation Suit Over RSS-Taliban Remark; Says Defamation Can’t Be Against ‘Unidentifiable Class’

Lyricist Javed Akhtar has sought dismissal of the defamation suit filed by a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) worker, accusing him of comparing RSS and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) with the Taliban during a television interview.

Akhtar filed the applications under Order 7 Rule 11 of Civil Procedure Code in RSS worker Vivek Champanerkar’s suit.

The Joint Civil Judge Senior Division Thane has now sought Champanerkar’s response to the application and posted the matter for hearing on February 10, 2022.

According to Akhtar’s application the plaint should be dismissed as Champanerkar neither has the locus or cause of action in his favour for the suit to be maintainable.

In the application filed, Akhtar says that the alleged remarks are neither specific to RSS nor to a member of the party. The remarks are general in nature.

According to the plaintiff’s own admission the remarks were directed towards people who would like to join the RSS which is an indeterminable group of persons, the application adds.

“It is settled position of law that when the alleged defamation is made towards an un-identifiable class of persons, then it does not amount to defamation at all. (G Narsimhan vs TV Chokkappa),” the application states.

Moreover, assuming the remarks were against a particular class of people, the plaint should have been filed by them and not the complainant in his individual capacity, it is contended.

Akhtar has cited parts of the suit in which the plaintiff says that he was compelled to file the suit as RSS was defamed.

‘Google’s Conditions On Digital News Publishers Prima Facie Unfair, Abuse Of Dominant Position’ : CCI Orders Probe

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) directed a probe against Google with respect to allegations of abuse of dominant position raised by Digital News Publishers Association. The Association had filed information under Section 19(1) (a) of the Competition Act, 2002 (“Act”) against Alphabet Inc., Google LLC, Google India Private Limited and Google Ireland Limited.

Noting that Google prima facie abused its dominant position in relation to news aggregation services, the CCI ordered the probe:

“In a well-functioning democracy, the critical role played by news media cannot be undermined, and it needs to be ensured that digital gatekeeper firms do not abuse their dominant position to harm the competitive process of determining a fair distribution of revenue amongst all stakeholders. Therefore, the alleged conduct of Google app to be an imposition unfair conditions and price which, prima facie, is a violation of Section 4(2)(a) of the Act”, the order read.

Digital News Publishers Association is an association of online platforms of major mainstream media like Indian Express, Times Group, NDTV, India Today, ABP, Malayala Manorama etc.

Read Order here.

Amended legislation is the only solution to ban online gambling, says Ramadoss

PMK founder S. Ramadoss said an amended legislation to ban online gambling is the only solution, and urged the State government to bring in an ordinance immediately and pass a legislation in the next Assembly session in March.

In a statement, he welcomed Chief Minister M K Stalin’s announcement in the Assembly that the State government would soon put an end to online gambling, but pointed out that the current approach wouldn’t fetch the desired results.

The Chief Minister had mentioned that the State government has gone on appeal in the Supreme Court against a Madras High Court order quashing the law enacted to ban online gambling by the previous AIADMK regime, and the hearing is going on, and soon they will put an end to online gambling, Mr. Ramadoss said. However, he said history shows that Supreme Court verdict won’t put a full stop to online gambling.

A lot of State governments have enacted laws against online gambling and on appeals in at least in 7 cases, the Supreme Court has ruled that such laws are invalid. Even in 2016, Supreme Court has ruled against the Tamil Nadu government on the issue, Mr. Ramadoss said.

The main reason is that the Supreme Court has accepted the argument that it is a game of skill. The enactment passed by the Tamil Nadu government last year banning online gambling did not have strong points to prove that these are games of chance and not games of skill, he said.

There have been no signs of the Supreme Court taking the appeal for hearing. Till such time as a judgement is passed, we cannot allow people to lose money and end their lives by suicide, Mr. Ramadoss said while calling for the amended legislation.

PCI Asks I&B Minister to Expedite Process of Renewing Media Accreditation Cards

Terming the inordinate delay in the annual renewal of the accreditation cards issued by the Press Information Bureau to journalists as “an overt or covert effort to prevent media persons from being kept informed of the government’s viewpoints on news emanating from ministries”, the Press Club of India (PCI) has urged the Union government to expedite the process and to extend the validity of cards that expired on December 31, 2021 by a year to provide immediate relief.

In a letter to Union minister for information and broadcasting Anurag Thakur, the PCI president Umakant Lakhera and secretary-general Vinay Kumar wrote recently that it was “perplexing” that the media has not been “officially informed of any specific reason for the delay or impediment in the process” of renewal of PIB cards.

Stating that the move has “caused misgivings”, the letter said, “it is felt that this move is heedlessly and needlessly aimed at suppressing coverage of news and views gathering, controlling freedom of press and putting undue pressure on correspondents and photographers.”

The PCI urged that ‘If system is being streamlined, an order should be issued for extending the validity of the cards that were valid until 2021 up to December 31, 2022 to ensure that there was “no disruption of work of the accredited correspondents in catering the government news to the public without any hassles”.

The PIB card is important for the Journalists to access the Parliament, cover the election campaign and also availing health facilities through CGHS.

Zee Media v. Mahua Moitra: Delhi High Court Seeks Video Footage Of The Incident

In the plea filed by Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra for quashing of a summoning order passed by the trial court in a defamation case filed against her by Zee Media, the Delhi High Court on Friday asked her to place on record the video of the said incident, extracts of which are stated to be defamatory.

Justice Mukta Gupta asked Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for Moitra to also place on record the complaint filed by Moitra against Zee News, along with relevant transcripts.

On 25th June, 2019, Moitra had delivered a speech in the Indian Parliament and had indicated that the ruling dispensation had been conducting itself in a manner which brought about a situation that was contemplated by a poster in the Holocaust Museum in USA and referred to several signs of Fascism.

Sudhir Choudhary from Zee Media claimed in his show that Moitra’s parliamentary speech was plagiarized from an article authored by Marin Longmean, available on Washington Monthly.

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