Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: G.S. Patel, J., disposed of an interim application with respect to the suit for trade mark and copyright infringement, while holding that ‘Copyright registration is not mandatory under the Copyright Act, 1957.”

Trade Mark in question is a label mark, not  a word or a device mark.

Plaintiff claimed copyright in the artistic work comprised in the label.

It has been stated that Narayani Trading’s Label uses very nearly – or indistinguishably the same – principal background colour.

Counsel Mr Burad for Narayani Trading submitted that the two labels are entirely distinct and no one will mistake one for another. Court rejected the same and elaborated that the key features, integers, or elements that have been described by the Bench in Sanjay Soya’s Label all find place in Narayani’s Trading Label with only minor variations.

Factual Matrix

Sanjay Soya has been manufacturing and selling edible oils of various kinds, including soyabean oil, for many years. Narayani Trading is a sole proprietorship. Sanjay Soya claimed to have the necessary ISO certifications for quality and other certifications. Sanjay Soya stated that it is the successor-in-title of one SK Oil Industries, in May 2003 SK Oil adopted the label, mark and artistic work in relation to edible oil which has distinctive get up, layout and schematic arrangements.

Recital (2) of the Deed of Assignment stated that SK Oil conceived, created, designed and developed a SOYA DROP label and that is the artwork that is the issue of concern in the present matter.

Counsel Mr Khandekar for Sanjay Soya submitted that the label is an original artistic work within the meaning of Section 2(c) of the Copyright Act. Further, it was added that, Sanjay Soya has used the mark, with some variants, openly and continuously since adoption.

In brief, Sanjay Soya’s Argument:

Sanjay Soya claimed that Narayani Trading has entirely lifted and unauthorisedly and illicitly copied Sanjay Soya’s registered label mark and the copyright-protected artistic work in the label. It says that Narayani Trading’s label is a reproduction and an illicit copy of a substantial part of Sanjay Soya’s original and distinctive artwork.

Piggyback on Sanjay Soya’s reputation?

Narayani Trading’s adoption of the label mark is dishonest, not bona fide, with an ulterior motive and intended to trade upon and encash the goodwill, recognition and reputation of Sanjay Soya’s business.

The Court noted that earlier decision of the Court in Dhiraj Dharamdas Dewani v. Sonal Info Systems (P) Ltd., 2012 (3) Mh LJ 888 held that registration under the Copyright Act is mandatory before a plaintiff can claim relief. So also, the decision in Gulfam Exports v. Sayed Hamid, 2000 (20) PTC 496 Bom says that registration is required. Noting the settled law, the present Bench held that these two decisions are per incuriam on the question of compulsory registration under the Copyright Act.

High Court observed that Copyright and Trade Mark operate in different spheres, though in some cases – as in the present one – these may overlap or intersect.

Copyright is a recognition of originality, granting rights of commercialisation and exclusivity in that commercialisation to the author of a work, a person who, by sweat of his brow, has brought into being the original expression or realisation of an idea. The emphasise is on originality, labour and skill in expression and realisation. 

Section 51 of the Copyright Act does not per se, demand prior registration. The said provision is to be read with Section 45(1) which states that the owner of copyright may apply for registration.

Importantly, copyright infringement lies in the unlicensed use of original works, in which the author has a spectrum of exclusive rights.

Essence of Copyright Protection

There is always the slight escape of the fair use doctrine, but the underlying principle is that no author may claim as his or her own the original authorship work of another. That is the essence of copyright protection.

The Supreme Court decision in Engineering Analysis Centre of Excellence (P) Ltd. v. Commissioner of Income Tax, Civil Appeal Nos 8733-8734 of 2018, authored by Rohinton Fali Nariman, J., explained the nature of copyright.

Registered proprietor of a mark or the owner (not registrant) of copyright may have recourse to the jurisdictional venues in Section 134 or Section 62, in addition to those under CPC Section 20.

The owner of a copyright has a panoply of jurisdictional choices, including one that is available only to him (and not to an ordinary plaintiff in a regular civil suit).

Rationale behind allowing a trade mark registrant or a copyright owner additional jurisdictional choice is that the right claimed is in rem, against the world at large. The infringement thus takes place where the proprietor of the trade mark or the owner of copyright resides or works. This is, therefore, no ground to hold that copyright registration is mandatory.

There is no law or precedent that requires that a declaration that a decision is rendered per incuriam be made only by a hierarchically superior court. 

Bench while expressing its observations, stated that it is impossible to believe, given Sanjay Soya’s prima facie established product popularity and reputation, that Narayani Trading was unaware of Sanjay Soya’s market presence, also it Narayani Trading does not show that the artistic work and label was in use before Sanjay Soya or SK Oil began using it.

Sanjay Soya v. Narayani Trading | Label Mark 

Bench held that knowing of Sanjay Soya’ s presence in the market, of its label and of its artistic work, Narayani Trading illicitly and without bona fide intent adopted a label that is confusingly, deceptively and strikingly similar to that of Sanjay Soya; and in doing so, copied substantially, if not wholly, the artistic work comprised in Sanjay Soya’s trade dress and packaging, and of which copyright Sanjay Soya through its predecessor-in-title is indeed the owner.

Cause of Action in ‘Passing Off’ || Classic Trinity

 High Court expressed that in 1978–79, Diplock LJ set out five guidelines for ‘passing off’ actions in Erven Warnink v. Townend & Sons Ltd.  [1979] AC 731, 742 (HL), this is the famous ‘Advocaat’ case. Oliver LJ in Reckitt & Colman Products Ltd v. Borden Inc., [1990] 1 All ER 873 distilled these into the three probanda in the tortious actions in passing off that we now know as the ‘Classic Trinity’:

  • goodwill owned by a claimant;
  • (ii) misrepresentation; and
  • (iii) damage to that goodwill.

Classic Trinity places on a plaintiff the burden of proving goodwill in its goods or services, trade dress, brand mark or even the thing itself.

In view of the above, Bench stated that Sanjay Soya prima facie did prove the above.

Further, the plaintiff needs to show the false representation to the public that leads it to believe that the goods or services of the defendant are those of the plaintiff. Fraud is not necessary.

The above, was also achieved by Sanjay Soya.

“Test of deception or its likelihood is that of the common person.”

A plaintiff need not prove actual or special damage; a reasonably foreseeable probability is sufficient.

“…in the case of beauty, similarity and its extent are matters that lie in the eyes of the beholder, and in all intellectual property matters, the beholder is, perhaps unfortunately, in the first instance always the judge tasked with deciding the dispute.”

Lastly, while concluding the matter, Bench expressed that looking at the two packets of which the images have been rendered at the start, all that the Court can say is “which is whose? I cannot tell.”

Finding the defence of Narayani Trading to be utterly frivolous and possibly moonshine, Court imposed costs on them. [Sanjay Soya (P) Ltd. v. Narayani Trading Company,  2021 SCC OnLine Bom 407, decided on 09-03-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Plaintiff: Mr Rashmin Khandekar, with Ms Janhvi Chadha and Mr Hardik Sampat, i/ b Krishna and Saurasri Associates LLP.

For the Defendant: Mr Pritesh Burad, with Ms Amruta Patil & Mr Mitesh Visaria, i/ b Pritesh Burad Associates.

Case BriefsDistrict Court

Rouse Avenue Court, New Delhi: Ravindra Kumar Pandey, ACMM, in an essentially significant decision revolving around the  #MeToo movement, acquitted Priya Ramani (accused) and held that no case under Section 500 of the Penal Code, 1860 was found against her.

“Most of the women who suffer abuse do not speak up about it or against it for simple reason “The Shame” or the social stigma attached.”

 “The woman has a right to put her grievance at any platform of her choice and even after decades.”

What led to the filing of the present complaint under Section 500 IPC?

Complainant MJ Akbar, who was a politician moved the present complaint alleging accused Priya Ramani, a Journalist for defaming and damaging the complainant’s reputation by way of tweets, articles, etc. While presenting the set of allegations, complainant stated that the accused had made false, derogatory and malicious imputations against him such as:

I began this piece with my MJ Akbar story. Never named him because he didn’t ‘do’ anything. Lots of women have worse stories about this predator­ maybe they’ll share’, ‘ the media’s biggest sexual predator’. ‘ How many more stories do you need to hear?’, ‘Am glad # MJ Akbar won’t be in the workplace any more but Akbar represent countless men who believe they can say and do whatever they want to women without any consequences’. ‘You’re an expert on obscene phone calls, texts, inappropriate compliments and not taking no for an answer’.

Another allegation that the complainant puts forward is the accused herself, while putting forward the above mentioned quoted defamatory statements, relating to an incident occurred 20 years ago, admits that the complainant did not do anything to her.

Allegations of the Accused as: Figment of her imagination

Complainant goes on to submit that accused’s conduct on taking any action before any authority, with respect to the alleged incident clearly belies the sanctity of the articles and allegation made against the complainant with the intention to malign his reputation.

It was further alleged by the complainant that accused Priya Ramani had resorted to a series of maliciously fabricated allegations, which was diabolically and viciously spread by her by using media.

All of the above caused great humiliation and damaged the complainant’s goodwill and reputation in his social circles and on the political stage.

On the basis of pre-summoning evidence led by the complainant, accused Priya Ramani was summoned by this Court for commission of offence punishable under Section 500 IPC.

Priya Ramani’s Defence

Accused took the defence that she made the publication of the articles and tweets in good faith for protection for other women’s interest in general regarding sexual harassment at the workplace. Accused contended that her publication covered under the exception 1,3 and 9 of Section 499 IPC.

Further, it was added that the complainant was not a man of stellar and impeccable reputation and the accused did not defame him by publishing the tweets and article.

Analysis and Decision

It cannot be ignored that most of the time, the offence of sexual ­harassment and sexual abuse is committed in the close doors or privately. Sometimes the victims herself does not understand what is happening to them or what is happening to them is wrong. Despite how well respected some persons are in society, they in their personal lives, could show extreme cruelty to the females.

While analysing the facts and circumstances of the case, Bench considered the systematic abuse at the workplace due to the lack of mechanism to redress the grievance of sexual harassment at the time of the incident of sexual harassment against the accused Priya Ramani and witness Ghazala Wahab prior to the enactment of The Sexual­ Harassment of women at workplace ( Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, or their option to not lodge the complaint of sexual ­harassment due to the social stigma attached with the sexual ­harassment of women.

Unaware of what is happening

Bench while addressing the issue of sexual abuse expressed that victims of sexual abuse not even speak a word about abuse for many years because sometimes she herself has no idea that she is a victim of abuse.

“…victim may keep believing that she is at fault and victim may live with that shame for years or for decades.”

Defamation complaint against sexual abuse victims

Court stated that woman cannot be punished for raising voice against the sexual­ abuse on the pretext of criminal complaint of defamation as the right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of the right of life and dignity of woman as guaranteed in Constitution of India under Article 21 and right of equality before the law and equal protection of the law as guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution.

While concluding with its decision, Bench asserted that the ‘glass ceiling’ will not prevent the Indian Women as a road lock for their advancement in society, if equal opportunity and social protection be given to them.

Therefore, while acquitting Priya Ramani of the offence under Section 500 IPC, Court directed her to furnish bail bonds and surety bonds in terms of Section 437-A CrPC. [Mobashar Jawed Akbar v. Priya Ramani, Complaint Case no. 05 of 2019, decided on 17-02-2021]

Op EdsOP. ED.

1.Every person has a right to have his reputation preserved inviolate. It is a jus in rem, a right good against all in the world.

2. Defamation in law, means attacking another person’s reputation by a false publication (communication to a third party), tending to bring the person into disrepute.

As per MerriamWebster Dictionary, defamation means the act of communicating false statements about a person that injure the reputation of that person.

Black’s Law Dictionary records that defamation means offence of injuring a person’s character, fame, or reputation by false and malicious statements.

3. Section 499 of Penal Code, 1860[1] defines defamation as:

Defamation.—Whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter expected, to defame that person.

 Explanation 1.— It may amount to defamation to impute anything to a deceased person, if the imputation would harm the reputation of that person if living, and is intended to be hurtful to the feelings of his family or other near relatives.

Explanation 2.— It may amount to defamation to make an imputation concerning a company or an association or collection of persons as such.

 Explanation 3.— An imputation in the form of an alternative or expressed ironically, may amount to defamation.

 Explanation 4.— No imputation is said to harm a person’s reputation, unless that imputation directly or indirectly, in the estimation of others, lowers the moral or intellectual character of that person, or lowers the character of that person in respect of his caste or of his calling, or lowers the credit of that person, or causes it to be believed that the body of that person is in a loathsome state, or in a state generally considered as disgraceful.

4. Defamation is a public communication which tends to injure the reputation of another. What statements are defamatory and the span of defences varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but there is common agreement in all jurisdictions that statements that are unflattering, annoying, irksome, embarrassing or hurt one’s feelings are not actionable. Common element in all jurisdictions is the potential to injure the reputation. (Refer Ram Jethmalani Subramaniam Swamy.[2])

5. For any defamation action under special law of torts to be successful, the following essential elements are to be proved before the court:

(i) the statement is made by words, either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations;

(ii) the said statement must refer to the plaintiff;

(iii) the statement must be defamatory;

(iv) the person making the defamatory statement knows that there are high chances of other people believing the statement to be true and it will result in causing injury to the reputation of the person defamed;

(v) the statement should be false;

(vi) the statement should not be privileged;

(vii) the statement must be published;

(viii) the third party believes the defamatory matter to be true; and

(ix) the statement must cause injury.

6. However, there are certain exceptions to the general rule:

(i) If the statement made is truth, then it does not constitute defamation.

(ii) If it is a fair comment made in public interest.

The Delhi High Court in Sasikala Pushpa v. Facebook India[3], while dismissing the suit, held that if the people like the plaintiff meet someone behind closed doors, more particularly a person of rival political party, such matters are of public interest and the public at large has a right to know the true state of affairs, the same outweighing the private interest of the plaintiff of keeping the same hidden from public eyes. Therefore, such a public interest shall be an exception to make somebody liable for defamation and to seek injunction against him/them.

 Defence of absolute and qualified privileges.— Absolute privilege gives the person an absolute right to make the statement even if it is defamatory, as the person is immune from liability arising out of defamation lawsuit. Generally, absolute privilege exempts defamatory statements made during judicial proceedings; by government officials; by legislators during debates in the parliament; during political speeches in parliamentary proceedings; and communication between spouses.

When a person making the statement has a legal, social or moral duty to make it and the listener has an interest in it, then the defence of qualified privilege is allowed. Generally, such a defence can be availed in case of reference for a job applicant; response to police enquiries; fair criticism of a published book or movie in review; communication between parents and teachers; communication between employers and employees; and communication between traders and credit agencies.

In Ram Jethmalani[4], the Delhi High Court while dwelling upon absolute and qualified privileges, in the context of defamation, observed as:

“67. Even the issue of absolute privilege has remained a subject-matter of considerable debate. Is absolute privilege absolute in the sense of being infinite? As late as 1998, in the decision reported as Waple v. Surrey County Council[5], it was held:

The absolute privilege which applies to statements made in the course of judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings and in the documents made in such proceedings, would only be entitled where it was strictly necessary to do so in order to protect those who were to participate in the proceedings from being sued themselves.

  1. The decision brings out that absolute privilege is not absolute in the context of being infinite. Even when the occasion is privileged one gets no licence to utter irrelevant and scandalous things unrelated to the proceedings. If what is stated is necessary or relevant to the proceedings, immunity would be absolute.

                                                *                    *                         *

  1. Qualified privilege may be defeated and its protection destroyed by proof of express malice. But how is express malice to be established?”

(iv) If the statement made is an opinion and not a statement of fact, then the said statement cannot be termed as defamatory.

(v) If a person consents to a statement made, then there is no defamation.

(vi) Censure passed in good faith by the person having lawful authority.

(vii) Accusation made in good faith against a person who has lawful authority over that person is not defamation.

7. Under the law of defamation, the test of defamatory nature of a statement is its tendency to incite an adverse opinion or feeling of other persons towards the plaintiff. A statement is to be judged by the standard of ordinary, right thinking members of society at the relevant time. The words must have resulted in the plaintiff to be shunned or evaded or regarded with the feeling of hatred, contempt, ridicule, fear, dislike or disrespect or to convey an imputation to him or disparaging him or his office, profession, calling, trade or business.

8. Defamation can either be libel or slander. Libel is a publication of false and defamatory statement tending to injure the reputation of another person without lawful justification. For example, writing, printing, etc. On the other hand, slander is a false and defamatory statement by spoken words or gestures tending to injure the reputation of another.

9. Defamation traditionally requires the proof of publication of a matter intentionally and with malice. It is important to mention that any person who intentionally and maliciously publishes or distributes such defamatory statement, is also liable as if he has made the statement himself. However, if the defendant proves that the statement is true he will not be liable for such defamation. In India and most other common law countries, the burden of proof is on the defendant to show that the statement is true or the publication was not intentional.

10. The right to reputation, as per the judicial interpretation, is a dimension of the right of life and also comes in the ambit of Article 21 of the Constitution of India[6]. In Subramanian Swamy Union of India[7], where defamation was sought to be decriminalised, challenging the constitutional validity of Sections 499 and 500 of the Penal Code, 1860 alleging them to be unreasonable restriction on the freedom of speech and expression, the Supreme Court held that criminal defamation under Sections 499 and 500 did not violate Article 19(1)(a) as it is a reasonable restriction under Article 19(2). The term “defamation” in Article 19(2) includes both civil and criminal defamation. Sections 499 and 500 IPC were held to be non-discriminatory and non-arbitrary and not violative of the right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution. While in a democracy, an individual has a right to criticise and dissent, but his right under Article 19(1)(a) is not absolute and he cannot defame another person as that would offend the victim’s fundamental right to reputation which is an integral part of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

11. A nine-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court inS. Puttaswamy v. Union of India[8], has authoritatively elucidated the following important principles regarding right to privacy:

(i) the right of privacy is a fundamental right;

(ii) it is a right which protects the inner sphere of the individual from interference from both State and non-State actors and allows the individuals to make autonomous life choices;

(iii) technology has made it possible to enter a citizen’s house without knocking at his/her door and this is equally possible both by the State and non-State actors;

(iv) it is an individual’s choice as to who enters his house, how he lives and in what relationship;

(v) privacy of the home must protect the family, marriage, procreation and sexual orientation which are all important aspects of dignity;

(vi) if the individual permits someone to enter the house it does not mean that others can enter the house; the only check and balance is that it should not harm the other individual or affect his/her right;

(vii) the only permitted exception is where there is a countervailing public interest which in particular circumstances is strong enough to outweigh it;

(viii) the question to be asked is, was it necessary and proportionate for the intrusion to take place, for example, in order to expose illegal activity or to prevent the public from being significantly mislead by public claims made by the individual concern or what it necessary because the information would make a contribution to a debate of general interest; and

(ix) the court, in order to decide a case, must carry out a balancing operation, weighing the public interest in maintaining confidence against a countervailing public interest favouring disclosure.

12. The internet has made it easier than ever before to spread a huge amount and variety of information worldwide. Social network websites (SNWs) are, at a grass root level, a medium for exchanging information between people. SNWs allow any person to write any statement, including the defamatory one, on their own or on a third party’s virtual profile. In this scenario, the question which arises is: who can be sued by the person against whom such defamatory statement has been made? Under the operative Indian Law, the person who made such statement as well as its distributor and publishers can be sued. Apart from the author of such statement, intermediaries such as SNWs concerned, the website holder, the internet service providers, as well as other users of such SNWs on whose profiles defamatory statements have been written by the author, can be sued in their capacity as publisher of defamatory statements and can be held liable for such statements. It is to be noted that such intermediaries or other users of SNWs may not be aware of such defamatory statements by the author on their own virtual profile.

13. Section 2(1)(w) of Information Technology Act, 2000[9] (ITA) defines “intermediary” as under:

“intermediary”, with respect to any particular electronic records, means any person who on behalf of another person receives, stores or transmits that record or provides any service with respect to that record and includes telecom service providers, network service providers, internet service providers, web-hosting service providers, search engines, online payment sites, online-auction sites, online-market places and cyber cafes.

14. Section 79 of ITA[10] gives immunity to intermediary. According to clause (1) to the said section, an intermediary shall not be liable under the Act or Rules or Regulations made thereunder, for any third-party information or data made available by him, if he proves that the offence or contravention was committed without his knowledge or that he had exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of such offence or contravention.

In Shreya Singhal v. Union of India[11], wherein Section 66-A of ITA was a subject-matter of challenge, inter alia, for providing protection against annoyance, inconvenience, insult, injury, or criminal intimidation, all not covered under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India, the Supreme Court found the said impugned section of ITA to be vague, and invalidated it on the ground of being violative of the right to freedom of speech and expression. It further held that the liability of an intermediary under the ITA shall arise only where the intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge from a valid court order or otherwise that unlawful acts relatable to Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India are going to be committed, fails to expeditiously remove or disable access to such material.


. Achal Gupta is an Advocate and a qualified Chartered Accountant, presently practising at Supreme Court and Delhi High Court. Author’s views are personal only.

[1] Section 499 IPC.

[2] 2006 SCC OnLine Del 14.

[3] 2020 SCC OnLine Del 618.

[4] 2006 SCC OnLine Del 14.

[5] (1998) 1 WLR 860 : (1998) 1 All ER 625.

[6]Constitution of India, Article 21.

[7] (2016) 7 SCC 221.

[8] (2017) 10 SCC 1.

[9] Information Technology Act, 2000.

[10] Ibid, Section 79.

[11] (2015) 5 SCC 1.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: R. Subramanian, J., refused to allow the application filed by Sathiyam Media praying for rejection of plaint filed by the Isha Foundation claiming damages for defamation from the applicant.

Cause of Action

The present application was filed to seek rejection of the plaint due to non-disclosure of the cause of action.

The above-stated suit is pertaining to damages for defamation and for permanent injunction restraining the defendant from publishing or telecasting any material or news item which either directly or indirectly defames the plaintiff foundation.

Plaintiff’s case

The defendant which is a television channel airing news items has been indulging in persistently broadcasting various programs that tend to lower the image of the plaintiff foundation and the founder of the plaintiff foundation.

Disparaging the reputation

Compere of the programmes can be seen to put leading questions with a view to extracting a response which disparages the reputation of the plaintiff foundation and its founder.

Motive: To increase Television Rating Points (TRPs)

Further, the plaintiff added that, the only concern of the defendant was to increase the television rating points and to sensationalize by publishing the response of people who had certain grievances against the plaintiff foundation and its founder.

Defendant sought the rejection of plaint on the ground that few issues which had been raised in the various broadcasts by the defendant were subject matter of certain writ petitions pending before this Court and therefore the suit will have to await the disposal of the petitions.

Counsel for the applicant/defendant P.T. Perumal and Advocate Rajendra Kumar for the respondent/plaintiff.

Analysis

Defamation

Applicant’s counsel invited the Court’s attention to the decision of Gujarat High Court in Narottamdas L Shah v. Patel Maganbhai Revabhai, 1984 Cri. Law Journal 1790 to contend that the suit having been filed by the foundation it should prove that there was a loss caused to the reputation of the foundation as such and reputation being what neighbours and others think about another person unless it is proved that the reputation of the plaintiff in the eyes of such other person or persons was lowered it cannot be said that there was defamation.

Presence or absence of evidence is essentially a matter to be decided in the suit and not in an application under Order 7 Rule 11 CPC.

Bench stated that the absence of evidence regarding the plaintiff’s damage to the reputation in the eyes of the third person could not form a ground for rejection of plaint at this stage or even at a later stage.

Other Proceedings Pending

In Court’s opinion, if the defendant in an action for defamation raises the defence of truth it is for him to establish it and succeed on the basis of evidence.

Further, it was added that he cannot rely upon or seek the aid of some dispute which is pending before a court of law to prove his case.

“Rejection of a plaint is an extraordinary remedy and the same cannot be invoked on grounds other than the ones specified in the rule itself.”

If there are hundred TV channels and a hundred newspapers and all of them publish defamatory material against an individual or an organisation, the organisation or the individual cannot be forced to file suits for damages against all of them. It is left to the discretion of the plaintiff to decide as to who is to be sued depending on the damage caused.

In view of the above, application was dismissed. [Sathiyam Media Vision (P) Ltd. v. Isha Foundation, 2019 SCC OnLine Mad 33067, decided on 06-08-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Ahsanuddin Amanullah, J. set aside an order of lower court in a libel suit ruling that where a person had already lost reputation in society on account of being accused in several criminal cases; an innocuous statement could not be said to have caused further damage to his reputation.

Respondent herein had filed a libel suit against appellant alleging that in an application filed by the appellant before Anchal Adhikari, Beldaur he had been referred to by appellant as Atankwadi. The said suit was decreed in favour of respondent and damage of Rs. 5000 was awarded for loss of his prestige and reputation. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant preferred the instant appeal contending that the lower court had presumed loss of prestige and reputation of respondent without any sound basis.

It was submitted that admittedly, respondent was accused in several criminal cases alleging loot of crops wherein he was on bail. Therefore, an innocuous statement made before Anchal Adhikari would not be the original reason for the loss of his prestige because an accused who is on bail has already lost some prestige. Mere reference to him as Atankwadi would not give him cause of action for bringing a suit for libel on the ground of losing social prestige and reputation, as society was already aware that he was accused in many cases in which he was on bail.

The Court observed that the appellant had filed a number of criminal cases against the respondent in which the respondent was on bail. Thus, the mere reference to respondent as Atankwadi in a petition filed by the appellant before Anchal Adhikari could not have caused any further damage to his prestige or reputation.

In view of the above, the appeal was allowed. [Chandra Kishore Khetan v. Prakash Kumar Khetan,2018 SCC OnLine Pat 2174, decided on 06-12-2018]