Delhi High Court on Interim Licence under Section 31D of Copyright Act, 1957

[I had covered the developments here and here.] As stated earlier, Saregama India Ltd and Super Casettes Industries Pvt Ltd, before the Delhi High Court, challenged the order dated 10.04.2017 passed by the Deputy Registrar of Copyrights, granting an interim statutory license under Section 31D(1) of the Copyright Act, 1957 in favour of M/S Kuku & Koyal Internet Pvt. Ltd.

The Saregama India Ltd was represented by Mr. Rajiv Nayar, Mr. Saikrishna Rajagopal, Mr. Siddharth Chopra and Mr. Munish Mehra. The Super Casettes Industries Pvt. Ltd was represented by Mr. Amit Sibal, Mr. Neel Mason, Mr. Aditya Gupta, Ms. Ridhima Pabbi and Mr. Uday S. Chopra, Advocates. The orders are available here and here. The matter is now listed for 22 February 2018.

Staying the impugned interim licence, the Delhi High Court vide Order dated 12 February 2018 held as follows: “6. A plain reading of the aforesaid order does not indicate that the Punjab and Haryana High Court had directed the Registrar or Deputy Registrar of Copyrights to pass an order contrary to the provisions of the Act. The Court had merely directed the respondents to decide the representations filed on behalf of the petitioner therein.

7. This Court is, prima facie, of the view that such directions had to be complied in accordance with law and thus, if the Registrar of Copyrights did not have the power to issue a statutory licence, no such license could be granted.”

I had earlier disagreed with this Delhi High Court Order dated 12 February 2018. I am inclined to stand by my reasoning. Going by the literal interpretation in the Delhi High Court Order, the Punjab and Haryana High Court Order doesn’t say that the Registrar ought to exercise powers under Section 31D. The Punjab and Haryana High Court Order directed the Registrar to “consider and decide” the representations filed under Section 31D by “passing an appropriate order thereon, strictly in accordance with law”. Accordingly, the Registar ought to have refused to decide on these representations citing lack of powers under Section 31D. If I may draw a (hypothetical) parallel, the reasoning in the Order is akin to the idea of directing  the Vice President of India to decide the representation on mercy petition strictly in accordance with law, when the Vice President of India has no role whatsoever in determining the mercy petition under Article 72 of the Constitution. I am unable to appreciate the coherence and logic in this reasoning.

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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