The High Court of Telangana passed a judgment on 21 April 2023, stating that Government of India is encouraging mediation to resolve disputers and is keen to make resort to mediation as mandatory. It was stated in the case of TATA CONSUMER PRODUCTS LIMITED v. ITC Ltd. (CIVIL MISCELLANEOUS APPEAL NO.69 OF 2023) which was passed by the division bench comprising of HONOURABLE JUSTICE P.NAVEEN RAO AND HON’BLE SRI JUSTICE NAGESH BHEEMAPAKA
FACTS OF THE CASE:
Plaintiff and the respondent are the Companies registered under the Companies Act, 2013. According to plaintiff, it is a century old business house engaged in business of marketing and/or manufacturing of diverse goods and services including packaged Foods and Beverages etc. It claims to be one of India’s foremost Private Sector Company having total income of about 62,336 crores in the financial year 2021-22 with market capitalization of about 3,08,882 crores as on 31.03.2022. It is rated amongst India’s 50 biggest Non-financial companies and ranked amongst the top 5 of India’s Most valuable companies for the years 2014 to 2019 by Business Today. It is also adjudged to be one of the world’s top 250 most regarded companies of 2019 by Forbes Magazine. It claims to enjoy enviable market position in foods business driven by renowned brads including ‘AASHIRVAAD salt’. Defendant is also involved in various consumer products under the brand name ‘TATA’. Defendant is also involved in manufacturing and selling of salt with the brand name ‘Shuddh by TATA salt’. 4According to the plaintiff, plaintiff is aggrieved against the defendant about its adoption, use and launch in December, 2022 of a trade dress which is a colourable and slavish imitation of ‘AASHIRVAAD salt’ trade dress of the plaintiff. The adoption and use by the defendant of the new ‘TATA SHUDDH salt’ trade dress for sale of salt is dishonest and motivated to trade upon the goodwill and reputation associated with plaintiff’s ‘AASHIRVAAD salt’. Plaintiff alleges that there is a deliberate attempt to not only copy the overall colour combination, but also the overall get-up and arrangement of features. The plaintiff alleges that impugned packaging/trade dress by the defendant can have no possible justification for adoption of several features in combination from the plaintiff’s ‘AASHIRVAAD salt’ packaging and get-up. Plaintiff alleges that the ‘Shuddh TATA Salt’ packaging trade dress is imitation of ‘AASHIRVAAD salt trade dress’ of plaintiff.
JUDGEMENT OF THE CASE
The Court has to satisfy that plaintiff has made out a case to dispense with availing mediation process, that he requires urgent orders and that not permitting him to institute the suit immediately without seeking recourse to mediation would cause irreparable injury and hardship. There was no consideration on urgency to file suit and seek urgent interlocutory orders. Dispensing from availing the mediation to resolve the dispute before instituting a suit is not a matter of course. The trial Court has not even looked into the mandatory nature of availing mediation as per Section 12-A. It has not applied its mind on whether the plaintiff has made out a case to dispense with taking recourse to mediation. It amounts to error of jurisdiction. Having regard to statutory mandate, we set aside the order under challenge and remit the matter to the Commercial Court to consider the maintainability of suit without availing the mediation as required by Section 12-A of the Act. 30. The Appeal is accordingly, allowed
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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY ROSHNI SABU, KERALA LAW ACADEMY LAW COLLEGE.