Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court: The present suit pertained to infringement of the personality and publicity rights of plaintiff committed by unknown defendants, who used social media and messaging platforms to fraudulently impersonate plaintiff and usurp his goodwill and reputation to deceive the public and run an investment scam. Sanjeev Narula, J., restrained Defendants 1 and 2, or any person acting on their behalf, from using the name, likeness, image, photos, or any other personality rights of plaintiff and/or claiming to be associated and/or connected with plaintiff. Further, the Court directed Defendant 3-Telegram, Meta Platforms Inc., and the other social media platforms concerned, to remove/block/delete the accounts, profiles and groups created by/administered by defendants which were misusing plaintiff’s name.


Plaintiff was a senior executive and head of the private equity advisory business at KKR Advisors India (P) Ltd. (‘KKR India’). KKR was the registered proprietor of the trade mark ‘Kohlberg Kravis Roberts’ and its acronym ‘KKR’. KKR was a global leader in providing, inter alia, alternative asset management services. Prior to joining KKR India, plaintiff was employed with another leading investment advisory firm and his move to KKR India was widely covered in the media including in leading financial newspapers Financial Express and the Economic Times.

Plaintiff alleged violation of his personality and publicity rights, goodwill, and reputation by various unknown persons, by way of creation of social media groups and on messaging platforms which falsely claimed association with plaintiff and misused his reputation in this advisory sector to offer investment services to the unwary public by impersonating plaintiff. Further, an individual asserting their name to be Anurag Thakur-Defendant 2 was falsely claiming to be plaintiff’s assistant and had created profiles to this effect on messaging platforms, including Defendant 3.

Plaintiff’s name and photograph were used by Defendants 1 and 2 to perpetrate fraud in the form of an investment scam, which could result in unsuspecting and unwary members of the public losing substantial sums of money. Having created false profiles on social media platforms carrying the name and picture of plaintiff, Defendants 1 and 2 had been engaging with members of the public and soliciting investments from them by falsely claiming that investments would be made based on the expertise of plaintiff. Moreover, a deepfake video had been created employing artificial intelligence to create a false likeness to plaintiff and encourage members of the public to invest their funds with persons wrongly claiming association with plaintiff and KKR.

Considering the repeated and continuing nature of the transgressions and the substantial threat posed to the public, plaintiff sought urgent interim relief to restrain the unknown persons from creating/operating the social media profiles and/or groups on messaging platforms and seeking blocking of the profiles/links/ groups. Plaintiff also sought directions to be issued to social media and messaging platforms, including Defendant 3, to delete all groups/profiles/links engaging in the fraudulent activities.

Analysis, Law, and Decision

The Court opined that the unknown persons were clearly interacting with members of public through various online social media profiles and messaging groups by fraudulently using plaintiff’s identity. The unknown operators of the profiles and groups were not associated with plaintiff or KKR and were not authorized to offer financial trading and investment-related advice on their behalf. They were misrepresenting themselves to the public to that effect and engaging in nefarious activities to dupe the unwary public, thus effectively eroding the goodwill and reputation of plaintiff.

The Court, after considering the public interest involved in the present matter, opined that plaintiff had demonstrated a prima facie case in their favour and if in case an ex-parte ad-interim injunction was not granted, plaintiff would suffer an irreparable loss. Thus, the Court issued the following directions:

  1. Till the next date of hearing, Defendants 1 and 2, or any person acting on their behalf, were restrained from using the name, likeness, image, photos, or any other personality rights of plaintiff and/or claiming to be associated and/or connected with plaintiff.

  2. In the event further groups/ channels/profiles of a similar nature surface on such platforms, plaintiffs were at liberty to share the details/URLs with the social media intermediaries concerned, who shall thereafter remove/block access thereto, in accordance with law.

  3. Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Union of India and Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications, Union of India, respectively, were directed to issue necessary notifications/directions to all telecom and internet service providers and Domain Name Registrars in India, to permanently block/delete/remove access to all the telephone numbers, websites, domain names, etc. which were identified to be misusing plaintiff’s name and his association with KKR.

The matter would next be re-notified on 10-7-2024.

[Akshay Tanna v. John Doe, 2024 SCC OnLine Del 1444, Order dated 5-2-2024]

Advocates who appeared in this case:

For the Plaintiff: Rajiv Nayar, Senior Advocate; Abhimanyu Chopra, Cheryl Fernandez, Aman Choudhary, Kushagra Jain, Saurav Seth, Advocates

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