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R.M. Subbiah and anr. Vs. N. Sankaran Nair and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectIntellectual Property Rights
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberO.S.A. Nos. 75 and 76 of 1978
Judge
Reported inAIR1979Mad56
AppellantR.M. Subbiah and anr.
RespondentN. Sankaran Nair and anr.
Cases ReferredFraser v. Evans
Excerpt:
.....to file accounts showing dealings between himself and distributors. - - 1946 of 1978. the learned judge in a well-considered order dated 17-5-1978, instead of granting an injunction as prayed for, made certain directions, the operative portion of which said order reads as follows: if, however, the bank guarantee as directed above is furnished the interim injunction granted as stated above, will stand dissolved to the extent of the exploitation of the story 'madanotsavam' for picturing the telugu version by the second defendant and in other respects, the interim injunction granted will continue'.2. an appeal against the said grant by the defendants to the appellate court was unsuccessful. in a case like this, when it is not disputed that after the telugu version was completed,..........who appeared before the learned judge and who is before us, made it clear that the prints of the telugu picture and already been despatched to the distributors and that the impression gained by the appellants was that by reason of the order in appn. no. 1946 of 1978, they could exhibit a completed picture and as wide publicity has been given about the exhibition of the picture, the grant of interim injunction as was done by the learned judge by way of clarification of his original order would cause considerable prejudice to the parties including strangers, and that it would not be in public interest to grant an absolute injunction but it would be germane if alternative directions are given to sufficiently safeguard and protect the interests of the plaintiffs.3. mr. biksheswaran,.....
Judgment:

Ramaprasada Rao, C.J.

1. O. S. A. No. 75 of 1978 is by the first defendant in C. S. No. 214 of 1978 on the file of the Original Side of this court and O. S. A. No. 76 of 1978 is by the second defendant in the said suit. These two appeals are directed against the order of Nainar Sundaram J. In Appln. No. 2290 of 1978 in the Original Side. The plaintiffs claiming a copyright in the story titled 'Madanotsavam', sought for an injunction restraining the appellants-defendants and/or their authorised representatives from infringing the above copyright of the plaintiffs-respondents in any manner whatsoever and in particular, for an injunction restraining the defendants from producing or continuing to produce any picture in Telugu, based on the story Madanotsavam but under the title 'Amar Prem'. Such a prayer was asked for by the plaintiffs in Appln. No. 1946 of 1978. The learned Judge in a well-considered order dated 17-5-1978, instead of granting an injunction as prayed for, made certain directions, the operative portion of which said order reads as follows:-

'I direct the defendants to furnish a bank guarantee to the tune of Rupees 50,000/- to the satisfaction of II Asst. Registrar, High Court, Madras, on or before 23-5-1978, will stand made absolute. If, however, the bank guarantee as directed above is furnished the interim injunction granted as stated above, will stand dissolved to the extent of the exploitation of the story 'Madanotsavam' for picturing the Telugu version by the second defendant and in other respects, the interim injunction granted will continue'.

2. An appeal against the said grant by the defendants to the appellate court was unsuccessful. On the strength of the order passed by the learned Judge in Appln. No. 1946 of 1978, the defendants completed the Telugu version of the picture 'Amir Prem' and distributed the prints thereof to various distributors in the State for the release of the said picture. In fact, a wide publicity was made about the said release of the picture through defendant's distributors under which the film 'Amar Prem' was to be released on 29-6-1978, and thereafter coming to know of the said release of the picture in the manner stated above, the plaintiffs once again approached this Court for an injunction restraining the appellants-defendants or their agents from releasing the picture Amar Prem as scheduled by them. Nainar Sundaram J. Passed orders once again after hearing the parties. He was of the view that the order passed by him in Appn. No. 1946 of 1978 enabled the appellants to picturise the film and did not authorise them to release it. He was emphatically of the view that when he used the expression exploitation of the story of Madanotsavam for picturing Telugu version by the second defendant, it was not possible to give extended meaning to his opinion by stating that the word 'picturising' would also mean releasing and exhibiting the film. In so many words, the learned Judge said that, that was not his intention. Therefore, he granted the injunction as prayed for in Appln. No. 2290 of 1978. Even at the time of passing of the above order, Mr. N. C. Raghavachari learned counsel for the appellants, who appeared before the learned Judge and who is before us, made it clear that the prints of the Telugu picture and already been despatched to the distributors and that the impression gained by the appellants was that by reason of the order in Appn. No. 1946 of 1978, they could exhibit a completed picture and as wide publicity has been given about the exhibition of the picture, the grant of interim injunction as was done by the learned Judge by way of clarification of his original order would cause considerable prejudice to the parties including strangers, and that it would not be in public interest to grant an absolute injunction but it would be germane if alternative directions are given to sufficiently safeguard and protect the interests of the plaintiffs.

3. Mr. Biksheswaran, learned counsel for the respondents in the appeal strenuously contends that such an alleged understanding of the order of the learned Judge resulting in the exhibition of the picture without express authority amounts to contempt of court and that unless the appellants are purged of such contempt, this appeal should not be heard. In the alternative, however, he would urge, that the clarification issued by the learned Judge in the circumstances was the only impression which a reasonable person could gain on a reading of the original order of the learned Judge and that, therefore, no interference is called for.

4. Though it was represented that an application for contempt was being filed, it is not before us. At this stage we are not inclined to make any observations on this aspect of the matter, as it is unnecessary to do so.

5. The substantial question argued before us is whether the grant of an injunction alone will subserve the interests of justice or whether substituted safeguards could be though of in order to preserve the rights, if any, of the respondents.

6. This is a case where literary piracy is pleaded. Injunction being an equitable remedy, which is granted by a court in exercise of its judicial discretion has to be considered from various facets which arise from a particular set of circumstances in each case. There may be cases in which the grant of an injunction temporary or permanent will only meet the ends of justice and an alternative safeguard for the preservation of the rights of the challenging party cannot at all be though of. There may be also cases where the remedy of injunction has to be made flexible and adjustable to the situations arising in each case. A rigid invocation without contemplating elasticity in the application of the rule as to the grant of injunction might sometimes result in hardship which cannot later be cured. In the instant case, the learned Judge has allowed the Telugu version of the picture Amar Prem to be taken, the story said to be based on the story of 'Madanotsavam' in which the plaintiffs claim a copyright. When once we reach the stage, which is not in dispute, that the picture has been picturised on celluloid and it would not be conducive in equity or in the name of justice to keep such a completed picture in the shelves of a laboratory without the same being exploited for the benefit of both the parties in litigation in which only question is whether there is a copyright vested in the plaintiff in the story of the picture. If the picture as picturised and completed in the Telugu version is to be kept without being released, then it would neither benefit the plaintiffs not the defendants. The learned Judge thought that a further appreciation of the latterly supervening situation was not germane, for according to him he was concerned only with the question as to whether the order already passed will cover the situation or not. But in our view certain nearer approximations in order to render justice has to be thought of, instead of creating a stalemate which is not beneficial to the parties. It is not conducive to keep the status quo until the disposal of the suit. The plaintiff is interested only in establishing his rights and getting sufficient compensation in terms of money, if his copyright is established in accordance with law.

In the original order, the learned Judge gave the privilege and the right to the appellants to complete the Telugu version of the picture by incurring heavy expenditure. This was challenged by both the plaintiffs and the appellants in the appellate court, but both were not successful. The position, therefore, is that the Telugu version of the picture has been completed and the finished product was ready for exhibition on the silver screen. As already observed by us, it would not be in the interests of any of the parties before us to keep the completed celluloid in a manner known to commercial practice. The learned Judge was of course right when he said that he was called upon to interpret his earlier order. But in our view, he could have, in the peculiar circumstances of the case, found an alternative method of approximating the relief and grant the substitute keeping in mind the interests of all concerned. In a case like this, when it is not disputed that after the Telugu version was completed, prints were taken and distributed to the distributors in this State and in other States, it would be highly inequities to stem the progress of such a commercial activity unless the court is satisfied that there is no other way of granting justice to the parties excepting by a preventive injunction. The rights of third parties are also involved. The third parties are distributors and exhibitors who have come into the picture. The first plaintiff's claim is that his literary work has been pirated. This relief could be compensated for sufficiently in money. In cases where an equitable relief would be sufficiently compensated for monetarily, then the Courts refrain from being wooden and granting injunctions alone instead of contemplating the nearest approximation which it can make. The mere fact that a prima facie case exists for the grant of an injunction or even the additional intelligence that a party seeking for it would suffer irreparable harm or inconvenience by this, may not be sufficient criteria for the granting of an injunction. Before the Court exercises its jurisdiction, to grant such a interim relief, which is essentially an equitable and a discretionary remedy the Court will have to be further satisfied that the comparative mischief or inconvenience which is likely to arise from withholding an injunction will be greater than that which is likely to arise from granting it'.

7. In Hubbard v. Vosper 1972 1 All ER 1023 the Court of Appeal in the United Kingdom dealing with a case in which an injunction for infringement of a copyright was asked for expressed themselves as follows-

'The Judge fully appreciated that Mr. Vosper might well have good defences; but, nevertheless, he granted an injunction to prevent him publishing the book. The reason was because of two decisions by Judges of first instance. Donmar Productions Ltd. v. Bart (1967) 2 All ER 338 decided in 1964 but reported in 1967 and Harman Pictures NV v. Osborne (1967) 2 All ER 324. Those cases do seem to suggest that, in an action for infringement of a right) when a plaintiff seeks an interlocutory injunction, he has to do two things; first, he must establish a strong prima facie case that he owns the copyright or other right; but secondly, having done that he need only show an arguable case that the defendant has infringed it or is about to infringe it. In the words of Goff J. in Harman's case, (1967) 2 All ER 324, the plaintiff 'does not have to show that he is likely to be successful or more likely to be so then the defendant, but only that he has a case reasonably capable of succeeding.' We are told that practitioners have been treating these cases as deciding that, if the plaintiff has an arguable case, an injunction should be granted so that the status quo may be maintained. The Judge was so told in the present case, and that is why he granted the injunction.

I would like to say at once that I cannot accept the propositions stated in those two cases. In considering whether to grant an interlocutory injunction, the right course for a Judge is to look at the whole case. He must have regard not only to the strength of the claim but also to the strength of the defence, and then decide what is best to be done. Sometimes it is best to grant an injunction so as to maintain the status quo until the trial. At other times it is best not to impose a restraint on the defendant but leave him free to go ahead. For instance, in Fraser v. Evans (1969) 1 All ER 8, although the plaintiff owned the copyright we did not grant an injunction, because the defendant might have a defence of fair dealing. The remedy by interlocutory injunction is so useful that it should be kept flexible and discretionary. It must not be made the subject of strict rules.'

8. In our view a just approximation to the relief asked can be made by issuing the following directions

1. The defendants shall furnish a further Bank guarantee to the tune of Rs. 50,000/- to the satisfaction of the II Asst. Registrar, High Court, Madras on or before 21-7-1978.

2. The defendants shall file an account showing all their dealings between themselves and their distributors;

3. Cause an account to be furnished of all the moneys realised by the exhibition of the pictures, every quarter the first of such accounting to be made on or before 30-9-1978, and such filling of accounts should be done every quarter thereafter.

4. The accounts have to be filed in the office of the Original side of the High Court, Madras, during the pendency of the suit. Failing compliance with any one of the conditions as above enumerated, the plaintiffs are at liberty to apply for further directions before the trial court.

9. In view of the continuing injury complained of by the plaintiffs we direct that this suit be posted for final disposal during the last quarter of this year and disposed of on merits.

10. With these observations, the above appeals are partly allowed and there will be no order as to costs in both the appeals.

11. Appeals partly allowed.


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