Copyright

Inquiry against IPRS: Commission of Inquiry is receiving statements from public


As SpicyIP reported earlier, an Inquiry Officer was appointed to inquire into alleged irregularities in the Indian Performing Rights Society Limited. The Inquiry Officer is deemed to be a Commission of Inquiry under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952. The scope of inquiry includes non-distribution of royalties by imposing illegal conditions, illegal transfer of mechanical rights and ringtone royalties to PPL, forgery of signature etc.

According to public notice issued by MHRD, “Notice is hereby given that all persons having knowledge of the facts and circumstances relating to the terms of reference of the inquiry into IPRS and having interest in the proceedings before the Inquiry Officer or who wish to assist the Inquiry Officer, should submit their statements along with documentary evidence in support in three (3) copies each duly supported by an Affidavit in a format generally acceptable in a Court of Law of India and sworn and verified by the deponent.”

Hardcopies (via Speed Post / Registered Post / Courier Service) must be sent to:

Commission of Inquiry into IPRS, L 7-A, Ground Floor, South Extension – II, New Delhi – 110049; Or

You can send scanned and signed statement of facts / allegations, supporting documents and Affidavit to [email protected] (Note that the email id given in the Public Notice is wrong)

Some thoughts

Our earlier posts had dealt with alleged irregularities in Copyright Societies. [For links regarding the issue, see here.] It is hoped that the instant Commission of Inquiry will pave the way for cleansing the system which lacks transparency altogether. As the factual matrix shows, IPRS tried everything in its armour to stifle the Inquiry process.

In September, 2015, the Supreme Court dismissed the SLP in IPRS v. Union of India (covered here), filed by IPRS in the hope of getting the order passed against them by the Bombay HC – permitting the Government to undertake a long-due investigation into IPRS’ affairs – overturned. Further, in December, 2015, it unsuccessfully moved a Writ Petition against the Union of India in the Bombay High Court. The Bombay High Court, in its judgment, made the following observations: “………..we do not find that at this stage the question of legality and validity of the appointment of the Inquiry Officer should be decided particularly in the light of the earlier round of litigation resulting in an order passed by this Court. In the event and when the Petitioners appear before the Inquiry Officer, if they desire to raise any issue with regard to the legality and validity of the appointment, it is free to raise it. The adjudication or the inquiry, if in any way adverse to the interest of the Petitioners, then while challenging the final order or decision, the Petitioners can raise all contentions including on the point of jurisdiction and competence of the Inquiry Officer.”

I am told that a similar Writ Petition is pending before the Delhi High Court. If this is indeed correct, I expect a similar outcome. Writ jurisdiction is not appellate jurisdiction. It encompasses supervisory jurisdiction. Generally, High Court does not interfere with a quasi-judicial process unless there is a compelling reason to do so. As to draw a parallel, Section of 19 of Prevention of Corruption Act contains certain provisions barring interference by higher courts. Though Article 226 and 227 are still applicable by virtue of Supreme Court judgment in L. Chandrakumar, they are used sparingly and cautiously.  In short, in practice, it is very difficult to get the intended relief in the absence of a strong, compelling case (which does not seem to be the case here).

An appeal to the public

The time has now come for you to act. If you have solid proof against IPRS, it is your moral responsibility to come forward and present the evidence. If this opportunity is lost, it may be lost forever. IPRS, considering its track record, will do everything possible to jettison the Inquiry process. In the absence of sufficient evidence against IPRS, its case will only become stronger.

The movie ‘Hitler: The Rise of Evil’ begins with the following quote of Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” This sum up the message I would like to convey through this post. It will be futile to regret later if you choose not to come forward with any evidence which you may be having and consequently, IPRS survives the Inquiry process.

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Mathews P. George

Mathews P. George

Mathews is a graduate of National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata. His interest in intellectual property was kindled when he bagged the second position in his second year of Law School (in the prestigious Nani Palkhiwala Essay Competition on Intellectual Property). His stint as a student of Prof. Shamnad Basheer further accentuated his interest in intellectual property. Winner of almost a dozen essay competitions in his Law School days, he was involved in various research and policy initiatives relating to intellectual property. Mathews is, currently, based out of Munich, Germany. He had earlier done his LLM in 'IP and Competition Law' from Munich Intellectual Property Law Centre (jointly run by Max Plank Institute for Innovation and Competition, University of Augsburg, Technical University of Munich and George Washington University, Washington).

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