In this post, I shall chronologically set out the updates pertaining to Section 31D:
I. In Inderjit Singh & Anr v/s Union of India & ors [CWP- 21945/2016], the Punjab & Haryana High Court had vide order dated 21st October 2016 directed as follows: “the Registrar of Copyright Office-respondent No.3 is directed that if the petitioners approach him by moving an appropriate representation within a period of four weeks from today, he shall consider and decide the same at an early date by passing an appropriate order thereon, strictly in accordance with law, but in any case within a period of three months from the date of receipt of representation from the petitioners. It is also directed that if the petitioners would make a request for any interim relief, respondent No.3 shall consider the same as well and shall pass an appropriate order thereon, in accordance with law.” Since the judgment was not complied with by the Registrar of Copyright, a contempt petition was filed by Inderjit Singh. Pursuant to that, the order dated 14 March 2017 was passed by the Court, directing the respondents to comply with the 21 October 2016 order within four weeks.
II. The Copyright Office issued a public notice on 24 January 2018 notifying that the Registrar of Copyright had issued an interim license under Section 31D(1) of the Copyright Act, 1957 in favour of M/s Kuku & Koyal Internet (now known as M/S Kuku & Koyal Internet Pvt .Ltd) vide Licence No. 01 of 2017 dated 10.04.2017 valid upto 29 September 2020. [See here for public notice. For licence, see this.]
III. Saregama India Limited and Super Casettes Industries Private Limited filed writ petitions before the Delhi High Court [W.P.(C) 1155/2018 & W.P. (C) 1299/2018] challenging the Section 31D interim license issued by the Copyright Office in favour of M/S Kuku & Koyal Internet Pvt. Ltd. Staying the operation of 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.
8. In view of the above, the interim statutory license, which is impugned in this petition, is stayed till the next date of hearing.”
I respectfully disagree with the Delhi High Court. While the stand of the Delhi High Court may be literally and technically correct, it is not so in spirit. Section 31D does not envisage any role for the Registrar of Copyrights. Even then, the Punjab and Haryana High Court placed the onus on Registrar of Copyrights with respect to Section 31D (including entertaining a contempt petition). I wonder what other role was envisaged for the Registrar by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. [On an altogether different note, I would like to mention an instance of wordplay here.]
A perturbing thought
The licence was granted to M/S Kuku & Koyal Internet Pvt. Ltd on 10 April 2017. The public notice intimating the same was issued only on 24 January 2018. The delay is quite perturbing. As I see it, it is a blatant violation of Right to Information Act, 2005 which bestows an active duty upon the State to disclose information like the instant one (except in certain areas such as defence, foreign policy).