Justice Vibhu Bakhru of the Delhi High Court recently passed an order stating that the Registrar of Copyrights does not have the power to adjudicate upon the merits of an application preferred by the Copyright Board, and that the Copyright Board may review its own decisions. The review application was initiated by the petitioners by after their delayed appeal was rejected by the Registrar.
You may access the judgment here.
Dandi Salt Pvt Ltd v. Union of India and Ors
Facts of the case
The Petitioners (Dandi Salt Pvt Ltd) had filed an objection with the Registrar of Copyrights against the registration of the respondent’s copyright. The Registrar rejected the objection which was appealed against by the petitioners. The appeal was also rejected by the Copyright Board- on grounds of delay, because section 72(1) of the Act provided for a period of three months for filing an appeal, which the petitioners had exceeded. The petitioner also filed an application for condonation of delay. The petitioners filed a review application of the Copyright Board’s order alleging that their application for condonation of delay had not been considered by the Board. The Registrar again dismissed the review application, on the grounds that the same was not maintainable. The Petitioner yet again filed a review application with the Copyright board. It was once again rejected by the Deputy Registrar on the grounds that the matter was re-examined and the Board’s order, which now was referred to as “a decision taken by the Board”, was re-affirmed. It was further stated that there is no provision of appeal/revision under the Act and the rules made thereunder against the order passed by the Copyright Board in an appeal. The instant writ petition was filed challenging the orders passed by the Registrar.
Questions for determination emerging from the dispute
Whether the Registrar of Copyright has the jurisdiction to reject an application of review preferred by the Copyright Board?
The Court held that the Registrar of Copyright does not have the power to consider a review application made to the copyright board. The Registrar can only have power to decide whether application is in correct form, complete of all particulars. The merits of an application cannot be adjudicated by the Registrar. The Registrar does not have the power to reject an application made to the Copyright Board. The Court ordered the Copyright Board to reconsider the review application. The application sought review of an order passed by the copyright board.
Whether an application for review of an order passed by the Copyright Board lies in the instant case? Does a quasi-judicial authority have the power to review its own decisions?
The Counsel for the petitioner relied on Kapra Mazdoor Ekta Union v. Birla Cotton Spinning and Weaving Mills limited wherein the Supreme Court had held that when a Court/quasi-judicial authority is vested with jurisdiction to adjudicate matters on merit, its judgment or order can be reviewed on merit only if the Court/quasi-judicial authority is vested by express provision or necessary implication. The decision also spoke to “power of procedural review.” The Supreme Court previously held that there is a distinction between the power to review a decision on merits and correct a fundamental procedural infirmity. If a fundamental procedural infirmity goes to the root of the proceedings then the adjudicating authority will have power to review the same. In the instant case, the Court drew from the Supreme Court’s decision and said that the question was whether non-consideration of an application for condonation of delay was a fundamental procedural infirmity going to the root of the proceedings. The question was whether dismissal of an appeal on the ground of delay or without considering an application on record, constituted a procedural error. The Court refused to express an opinion on whether condonation of delay would qualify as a procedural matter or be evaluated on the merits before the copyright board.