Delhi High Court
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Delhi High Court: Navin Chawla, J. passed an ad-interim injunction in favour of Marico Pvt. Ltd (‘plaintiff’) and found that the advertisement by Dabur India Ltd (‘defendant’) was disparaging their goods by mentioning them as ‘sasta amla’ and hinting that use of such oil will be detrimental to the customer, thus causing grave commercial injury to the plaintiff.

A company named Marico Limited, was engaged in the business of making hair oil. The plaintiff claimed in the application that it is the market leader by volume in the ‘AMLA HAIR OIL’ segment in the country and currently has a market share of more than forty percent. The Plaintiff further stated that it was informed by sources that a WhatsApp message was being circulated which showed a similar bottle as that of the Plaintiff’s bottle. Aggrieved by the WhatsApp message, a present suit was filed.

It was contented by the petitioner that the print advertisement of the respondent showed a similar bottle to that of Plaintiff’s product and showed a big cross on it, thereby asking the customers to reject it. The Plaintiff contended that reference to ‘sasta amla’ on the advertisement is a direct reference to his product since he has been running a long campaign for a significant period of time showing that his product is ‘affordable’ and ‘beneficial product.’

In order to further substantiate the claim, the plaintiff pointed out that his company’s hair oil was duly certified by the independent authorities and was found to be of similar quantity and efficacy as that of the respondent’s company. The Plaintiff also brought to the notice of the Court that Advertising Standards Council of India had found the claim ” Asli Amla, Dabur Amla” to be misleading.

The Counsel for the petitioner submitted that the print advertisement of the defendant was a clear case of disparagement of the plaintiff’s product. He also stated it was clear through the WhatsApp message which was circulated by the defendant that the product of the plaintiff along with print advertisement brought a clear association of the advertisement with the plaintiff ‘s product.

The Court noted that the plaintiff was able to make a good prima facie case in its favour. The Court took into account the fact that the WhatsApp Messages not only referred to the print advertisement but also to the product of the plaintiff. The Court held that the print advertisement was drawing reference to the plaintiff’s product and the allegation of cheaper oil being harmful to hair would prima facie amount to disparaging of the goods of the plaintiff. Thus, the Court granted ad-interim injunction in the favour of the plaintiff as balance of convenience liesin favour of him. Compliance with the said order should take place within two days.

[Marico Ltd. v. Dabur India Ltd., 2022 SCC OnLine Del 2070, decided on 13-07-2022]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Senior Adv. Chander Mohan Lall, Adv. Ankur Sangal, Adv. Pragya Mishra, Adv. Raghav Vinayak Sinha, Adv.Trisha Nag, for the Petitioner;

Fact ChecksNews

A viral whatsapp message has been doing the rounds that payment of rent cannot be refused during the lockdown. The message includes a news link of Deccan Herald which is about a Court’s order on a plea to waive off rent of lawyers’ chambers as they are unable to earn money due to the Courts being shut. An inference has been drawn that refusal to waive rent of lawyers’ chambers applies to all properties whether residential, industrial or commercial and that no tenant can refuse to pay rent. Let us have a look at the entire post and then check its veracity:

The Supreme Court has rejected the plea (of tenants) for a waiver on rent.

Meaning the payment of rent Can not be refused and is mandatory for the tenant for any property that they occupy.

The order was passed on the plea of lawyers requesting to waive off the rent of their chambers during lockdown which was rejected by the court and is applicable to all properties whether residential, industrial or commercial. (sic)[1]

The Deccan Herald report is dated 30th April 2020. On 30th April, Supreme Court had passed an order in the case of Pawan Pathak Prakash v Bar Council of India, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 10949 of 2020[2] which stated that

“The application for permission to appear and argue in person is allowed. Having heard the petitioner-in-person and taking into consideration the grievance of the petitioner, we are of the opinion that the best course is that the Bar Council of India should consider assisting its brethren, keeping in view the prevailing situation. With the above observation, the writ petition stands disposed of.”

In the case mentioned above, the Court requested the Bar Council of India to consider financial emergency assistance to lawyers.

On 5th May, in another case of Pawan Pathak Prakash v Union of India, Writ Petition No.  11005 of 2020[3], the Court held that

‘We are not inclined to entertain this petition under Article 32 of the Constitution. The writ petition is accordingly dismissed’

In this case, the Court dismissed the petition requesting for waiver of rent for lawyers during the lockdown period. Nowhere does it say that the Court has made it mandatory to pay rent in the case of lawyers’ chambers or otherwise. No inference can be drawn that the court has made it applicable to all properties, whether residential, industrial or commercial.

If we analyse the Deccan Herald report which has many comments by the judges made in open court (but not mentioned in the written order). The comments made by the Courts have no legal bearing or precedential value. They are at the end of the day just comments and are not to be taken as Court orders which have any legal consequences. When an SLP or a Writ Petition is dismissed in limine (without a reasoned order) and the relief sought for is denied, the opposite of the relief cannot be construed to be the Court’s ruling.

To sum up, the viral message quoted above has misinterpreted the Court order. The Court has merely refused to give orders to waive rent for lawyers’ chambers. The Court order does not mention that paying rent is mandatory for tenants of all properties whether residential, industrial or commercial.  Therefore, the viral message is a  misleading interpretation of the Court’s order.