For our readers who are not too familiar with the wording of these Sections, this is the difference between the provisions- Simply put, Section 20 of the Code of Civil Procedure states that all suits instituted must be at the place where the defendant or one of the defendants reside, carry on business or personally work for gain or where the cause of action arises wholly or in part. On the other hand, in what seems almost contradictory, Section 62 of the Copyright Act and Section 134 of the Trademarks Act, favour the Plaintiff and notwithstanding anything contained in Section 20 of the Code of Civil Procedure allow for the institution of the suit by the Plaintiff at any district Court where the Plaintiff “actually and voluntarily resides or carries on business or personally works for gain.”
What was held? (November 19th, 2008)
Both parties relied on several cases to prove their stand as to why the Delhi High Court possessed/ did not possess the requisite jurisdiction to hear the matter. The Court, however in this matter dealing purely with alleged use of copyright, held in favour of the defendants by placing reliance on several cases dealing with the interpretation of Section 20 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Stating that the cause of action was an aspect inseparable from the suit itself, the Learned Judge read Section 20 of the CPC conjunctively with the jurisdictional provisions contained in the Copyright and Trademark Act.
Notably, in the Banyan Tree case, Justice Bhat proposed an amendment to the provisions of the Copyright and Trademark Act since he believed the same to be contradictory, which in my post I respectfully disagreed with. I still continue to hold that view. Following the rules of interpretation, a plain reading of the statue is mandated. Therein, the cause of action giving rise to jurisdiction is a component wholly outside the Copyright or Trademark Act, which in the opinion of this blogger, can only be imported from the CPC in cases where none of the conditions stated in the relevant provisions of the Copyright or Trademark Act are satisfied.
Therefore in a hypothetical situation where the infringement takes place in India but the Plaintiff is neither a resident, nor does he carry on a business in India, or have an office here- only then can the jurisdiction under Section 20 of the Code of Civil Procedure be invoked.
While the Court in this decision believes that an interpretation of this sort would provide an “ameliorative advantage” to the Plaintiff and establish that litigation as “a device of harassment calculated to force an adversary into succumbing into settlement for fear of fighting a lis at an inconvenient venue”, this is the mandate of the statute.
One of the main principles reiterated by Courts time and again, is that the Judiciary cannot make law, or interpret the law in a manner that changes legislative intent. In the present case however, I fear that this is exactly what the Honourable Judge has in fact done, which is erroneous, and should hopefully be corrected as soon as possible.