Supreme Court: The Division Bench comprising of Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud* and B. V. Nagarathna, JJ., had set aside the impugned interim order of Madras High Court holding it to be an attempt to re-write Rule 29(4) of the Copyright Rules 2013. The Bench remarked,

“The interim order converts the second proviso into a “routine procedure” instead of an exception (as the High Court has described its direction). This exercise by the High Court amounts to re-writing. Such an exercise of judicial redrafting of legislation or delegated legislation cannot be carried out.”

A few broadcasters had approached the Madras High Court to challenge the validity of Rule 29(4) of the Copyright Rules 2013 on the ground that it (i) violates Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution; and (ii) is ultra vires Section 31D of the Act. The High Court, by its interim order had held that the duty which is cast on broadcasters in the notice to broadcast under Rule 29(1) is “apparently onerous”. Consequently, it directed that the petitioners before it may be permitted to resort to the second proviso to Rule 29(4) as a “routine procedure”, instead of an exception, subject to the duration of the ex post facto reporting being enlarged to fifteen days.

It was in the above backdrop that the instant appeal was initiated in the Supreme Court on the ground that the impugned interim order had the effect of re-writing Rule 29(4) of the Rules framed in pursuance of the provisions of Section 31D and Section 78(2)(cD) of the Copyright Act 1957.

Statutory Mandate

By the Copyright Amendment Act 2012, Parliament incorporated the provisions of Section 31D. Under sub-section (1) of Section 31D, a broadcasting organization which is desirous of communicating to the public by way of a broadcast or performance of a literary or musical work and sound recording which has already been published, may do so subject to compliance with the provisions of Section 31D. Section 31D(2) incorporates five requirements, namely:

  • a prior notice;
  • in the manner prescribed;
  • of the intention to broadcast the work;
  • stating the duration and territorial coverage of the broadcast; and
  • payment to the owner of rights in each work royalties in the manner and at the rate fixed by the Appellate Board.

Rule 29. Notice to owner for communication to the public of literary and musical works and sound recordings.—“(1) Any broadcasting organisation desirous of communicating to the public by way of broadcast or by way of performance of a published literary or musical work and sound recording under sub-section (1) of Section 31-D shall give a notice of its intention to the owner of the copyright and to the Registrar of Copyrights before a period of five days in advance of such communication to the public and shall pay to the owner of the copyright, in the literary or musical work or sound recording or any combination thereof, the amount of royalties due at the rate fixed by the Board in this regard:

Provided further that in case of communication to the public by way of broadcast or by way of performance of any published literary or musical work and sound recording or any combination thereof, in unforeseen circumstances, the notice shall, be given within twenty-four hours of such communication to the public:”

Contentions Raised

The appellants had challenged the interim order on the following grounds:

  1. By the interim order, the High Court re-wrote Rule 29(4), which is impermissible, in any event at the interim stage;
  2. The validity of Rule 29(4) was yet to be adjudicated upon and a presumption would attach to the constitutionality of both – the Rules and the Statute;
  3. There was no challenge to the validity of Section 31D in terms of which Rule 29 had been framed;
  4. The High Court had, in the course of its interim order, extended it only to the petitioners before it and to the broadcasters who had been impleaded as parties, as a result of which the pan-India operation of the Rule was left in the realm of uncertainty.

Observation and Analysis

Observing that the High Court had substituted the provisions of Rule 29(4) with a regime of its own, which was made applicable to the broadcasters and the petitioners before it, the Bench referred to the decision of the Constitution Bench in In Re: Expeditious Trial of Cases Under Section 13 138 of NI Act 188, wherein the Court had emphasized that, “the judiciary cannot transgress into the domain of policy making by re-writing a statute, however strong the temptations maybe.”

Reiterating that the court in the exercise of judicial review cannot supplant the terms of the provision through judicial interpretation by re-writing statutory language, the Bench expressed,

“Draftsmanship is a function entrusted to the legislature. Craftsmanship on the judicial side cannot transgress into the legislative domain by re-writing the words of a statute. For then, the judicial craft enters the forbidden domain of a legislative draft.”

Therefore, the Bench held that the High Court had entered the forbidden domain of legislative draft as it had held the broadcasters down to the requirement of prior notice, it had even modified the operation of Rule 29 by stipulating that the particulars which were to be furnished in the notice may be furnished within a period of fifteen days after the broadcast.

Hence, the Bench was of the view that an exercise of judicial re-drafting of Rule 29(4) was unwarranted, particularly at the interlocutory stage proceedings. The High Court was also of the view that the second proviso may be resorted to as a matter of routine, instead of as an exception and that the ex post facto reporting should be enlarged to a period of fifteen days (instead of a period of twenty four hours). Holding such exercise impermissible, the Bench expressed caution that it would substitute a statutory rule made in exercise of the power of delegated legislation with a new regime and provision which the High Court considers more practicable.

Accordingly, the appeals were allowed and the impugned interim order was set aside.

[Saregama India Ltd. v. Next Radio Ltd., 2021 SCC OnLine SC 817, decided on 27-09-2021]


Report by: Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant, EBC Publishing Pvt. Ltd. 



For the Appellants: Sr. Advocate Mukul Rohatgi and Sr. Advocate Akhil Sibal,

For the Respondents: Sr. Advocate Navroz Seervai and Sr. Advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul

*Judgment by: Justice Dr. Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud

Know Thy Judge| Justice Dr. DY Chandrachud

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