Spicy IP Tidbit: Chetan Bhagat Accused of Plagiarism

chetan bhagat

Chetan Bhagat has run into copyright trouble over his latest book ‘Half Girlfriend’; the author has been sued by Dr. Birbal Jha, an English scholar from Bihar, who claims that Chetan Bhagat stole the story for Half Girlfriend from his play ‘Englishia Boli’.

The complainant is a Director of British Lingua, a spoken English institute in Patna. Dr. Jha claims that Chetan Bhagat had visited his institute in Bihar earlier this year and had watched a performance of the play. The scholar had also presented a copy of his play to Chetan Bhagat.

Dr. Jha claims that there are similarities between his play and Half Girlfriend, “The main character of my book, Chandra Prasad, is a talented youth belonging to a small town of Bihar. He goes to Delhi but faces problems because of his inability to converse in English…He also meets a modern girl there who speaks English with utmost fluency. She, however, falls in love with him towards the end of the play because of his ability to prove himself.”

Mr. Jha also claims that his book had been released a year before Half Girlfriend and he intends to send a legal notice to Mr. Bhagat.

In response to Jha’s claim, Mr. Bhagat took to defending himself on Twitter, saying thus, “Stunned media takes on any story with no credibility as long as it is sensational. Facing the brunt of it. Some random person somewhere makes a plagiarism charge. Somebody whom I do not know or am familiar with their work. Media carries it.”

If Mr. Jha sends a legal notice to Chetan Bhagat, this would be the second notice that the author would receive in connection with Half Girlfriend. Chetan Bhagat has already received a legal notice from the Dumraon royal family in Bihar which is offended by the references to it in the novel. Chandra Vijay Singh, the former ruler of the princely state of Dumraon in Bihar, demands an unconditional public apology from Bhagat for portraying the royal family in a negative light by referring to its family members as “gamblers and alcoholics”. In the legal notice, Chandra Vijay Singh has sought to have any references to the Dumraon royal family expunged and has asked that all copies of the book which have not yet been circulated be recalled by Rupa (the publisher of the book), failing which Chandra Vijay Singh would initiate criminal proceedings.

Interestingly, this is not the first time that the author has been embroiled in copyright soup; Chetan Bhagat was the subject of a hotly debated copyright controversy when he alleged that the blockbuster movie ‘3 Idiots’ was based on his book ‘Five Point Someone’. (Spicy IP has blogged about it extensively here, here and here.)


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3 thoughts on “Spicy IP Tidbit: Chetan Bhagat Accused of Plagiarism”

  1. 3 Idiots was based on Bhagat’s book (it was not an allegation). The controversy was that due credit for the story was not given to him in the main title. The credit for the story was given to another person and his and his book’s names were mentioned in the scrolling titles at the end of the movie in an insignificant way.

  2. Though not strictly on the point, readers may also consider the case of Sheldon v Metro Goldwyn Pictures Corp in this context. The case was based on a dispute between a picture and a play being similar 81 F 2d 49 (2nd Cir 1936). The main questions for consideration were – was the play used and if used was it infringing. In this case it was held to be infringing….the scenes the characters all had similar descriptions……..which was not required.
    its a question of forests not trees (think Judge L.Hand said it)

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