Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench of C. Hari Shankar, J. quashed the order passed by the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (Board) rejecting the adjournment application filed by the counsel and held that posts on Facebook cannot be determinative of the location of a person at a particular point of time and therefore, opportunity of being heard should be given before taking any adverse view.
In the present case, the petitioner sought an adjournment before the Board on behalf of two counsel’s and informed the Board that the counsel’s office was closed due to COVID-19 and the employees were isolated to their residences and the main counsel, Akshay Srivastava was also directed to be in self-quarantine. The respondent submitted the screenshot of the Facebook page of the petitioner’s main counsel, where the last activity shown on his Facebook account was that he was at Marina Beach, Chennai. Therefore, the Board rejected the adjournment application holding that “it was falsely implicated that the main counsel was in quarantine while it has been shown to us through the Facebook postings that the said Counsel was on a holiday”. The Board also awarded costs and had referred the matter to the Bar Council of India in the event of failure to pay the costs imposed.
Analysis, Law, and Decision
The Court noted that the Board proceeded on the premise that Akshay Srivastava was the main counsel and except for the statement made by the petitioner, there appeared no justification for the Board’s presumption. Therefore, the Court opined that “this Court was unable to sustain the impugned order, insofar as the Board refused to adjourn the matter on the premise that Akshay Srivastava was the main counsel and that he was at Chennai on the date when the matter was taken up”.
The Court further opined that before the Board took an adverse view against the counsel based on a Facebook post and referred the matter to the Bar Council of India, the Board should have given an opportunity to the Counsel to explain the circumstances. The Court observed that “postings on Facebook cannot be treated as determinative of the location of a person at a particular point of time, at least by a Court. Even if a Court were to take an adverse view in that regard, the Counsel ought to be given an opportunity to explain the position before such a view was taken”.
The Court held that the Board was needlessly strict in imposing costs and referring the matter to the Bar Council of India in the present case. The Court relied on State Bank of India v. Chandra Govind Ji, (2000) 8 SCC 532, wherein it was held that “in ascertaining whether a party had reasonable opportunity to put forward his case or not, one should not ordinarily go beyond the date on which adjournment was sought for. The earlier adjournment, if any, granted would certainly be for reasonable grounds and that aspect need not be once again examined if on the date on which adjournment was sought for the party concerned had reasonable ground. The fact that in the past adjournments had been sought would not be material. If the adjournment had been sought on flimsy grounds, the same would have been rejected”.
Thus, the impugned order passed by the Board, was quashed, and set aside by this Court. The Court further directed the Registry to register the rectification petitions and list them before the Court on 23-2-2023.
[Vinod Kumar v. Intellectual Property Appellate Board, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 4412, decided on 12-12-2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the Petitioner: Advocate Prince Arora;
For the Respondent(s): Advocate Siddharth Bambha;
Advocate Sucharu Garg.