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Madras High Court Upholds Legal Precedents in Suo-Motu Contempt Petition Ruling

Case Title: Suo-Motu Cont.P.No.1592 of 2015

Case Number: Cont.P.No.1592 of 2015

Dated on: 16.04.2024

Qoram: The Honourable Mr. Justice M.S. Ramesh and The Honourable Mr. Justice Sunder Mohan

FACTS OF THE CASE

The case involves a Suo-Motu Contempt Petition brought before the court. The Madurai Bar Association passed a resolution condemning a judicial order mandating the wearing of helmets by two-wheeler riders. Subsequently, there was a procession by advocates from the Madurai District Court Campus to the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on September 10, 2015. During the procession, leaflets were distributed condemning and making allegations against the judges. P. Dharmaraj, the first contemnor, and A.K. Ramasamy, the second contemnor, was involved in the events. Both contemnors denied direct involvement in the contemptuous acts but filed affidavits of apology, expressing regret and offering apologies for any unintentional actions. The court expressed dissatisfaction with the coercive action taken by the lawyers against a judicial order. Previous decisions by coordinating benches disapproved of the actions of the contemnors and the Bar Association. Despite involvement in the actions, the court decided not to isolate the contemnors for further action but did not condone their involvement in contemptuous acts. Both contemnors, aged over 70, expressed respect for the judiciary in their affidavits. Other lawyers were also involved in the agitation, leading the court to accept the unconditional apologies of the contemnors and close the contempt petition.

ISSUES

  1. Whether the actions of the Madurai Bar Association, particularly the procession, distribution of leaflets, and making allegations against judges, constitute contempt of court.
  2. Whether P. Dharmaraj and A.K. Ramasamy, as members of the Madurai Bar Association, were directly involved in the contemptuous acts.
  3. Whether the apologies tendered by P. Dharmaraj and A.K. Ramasamy are genuine and sufficient to absolve them of contempt charges or if further action is warranted by the court.

LEGAL PROVISIONS

  1. Contempt of Courts Act, 1971: This Act outlines what constitutes contempt of court and provides the legal framework for initiating contempt proceedings against individuals or entities that interfere with the administration of justice.
  2. Constitution of India, Article 129: This article grants the Supreme Court the power to punish for contempt of itself.
  3. Constitution of India, Article 215: This article grants High Courts the power to punish for contempt of themselves

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT

The contentions of the court, which can be seen as similar to the role of the appellant. Expressing dissatisfaction and disappointment with the conduct of the lawyers involved. The court expresses its dissatisfaction and disappointment with the coercive actions taken by the lawyers, particularly members of the Madurai Bar Association, in response to a judicial order mandating the wearing of helmets by two-wheeler riders. The court criticises the lawyers’ resort to coercive action instead of pursuing lawful remedies against the order they found objectionable. The court emphasises the need for lawyers to adhere to established legal precedents and ethical standards. It refers to previous judgments by higher courts condemning similar acts of coercive behaviour by lawyers and underscores the duty of lawyers to maintain the integrity of the legal profession and the judicial system. The court underscores the importance of lawyers respecting the judiciary and refraining from taking the law into their own hands. It condemns the lawyers’ participation in coercive actions such as strikes, boycotts, and unruly conduct, stating that such actions undermine the administration of justice and threaten the rule of law. The court calls for self-regulation and restraint among lawyers, urging them to uphold the dignity and independence of the judiciary.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENT

The contentions of the lawyers identified as the respondents in the contempt petition, deny direct involvement in the acts deemed contemptuous by the court. They assert that they were not personally responsible for the actions that led to the contempt proceedings being initiated against them. Despite denying direct involvement, the respondents offer unconditional apologies for any unintentional actions that may have contributed to the contempt proceedings. They express regret if their actions, even if unintentional, were perceived as contemptuous by the court. The respondents argue that they were acting in their capacities as office bearers of the Bar Association. They claim that their actions were aligned with the majority view of the association’s members, suggesting that their actions were reflective of the collective decision-making process within the association. Overall, the respondents’ contentions revolve around denial of direct involvement, expression of regret through unconditional apologies, and justification of their actions based on their roles within the Bar Association.

COURT’S ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

The court expresses dissatisfaction and disappointment with the conduct of the lawyers involved in the contempt proceedings. It criticises the lawyers for resorting to coercive actions against a judicial order, highlighting the seriousness of their actions in undermining the authority of the judiciary. The court emphasises the importance of upholding legal precedents and ethical standards within the legal profession. It cites previous judgments condemning similar acts by lawyers and stresses the duty of lawyers to maintain the integrity and dignity of the judiciary.

The court underscores the duty of lawyers to respect the judiciary and refrain from engaging in actions that could undermine its authority. It reiterates that lawyers must abide by the law and refrain from taking the law into their own hands, emphasising the need for adherence to legal processes and remedies. The court acknowledges the unconditional apologies offered by the contemnors, who are senior lawyers, and notes their expressions of respect for the judiciary. Despite their denials of direct involvement, the court takes note of their regret and expressions of remorse.

The court considers the age and background of the contemnors, taking into account their longstanding careers and contributions to society. It notes their involvement in social service activities and their clean conduct over several decades of legal practice. Based on the considerations mentioned above, the court decides to close the suo-motu contempt petition. It accepts the unconditional apologies rendered by the contemnors and finds no further action necessary against them.

In conclusion, the court’s analysis and judgement reflect a balanced consideration of the actions of the contemnors, emphasising the importance of upholding legal principles and respecting the judiciary while also recognizing the remorse expressed by the contemnors and their contributions to society.

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Judgement Reviewed by – Shruti Gattani

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Karnataka HC Grants Bail Citing Occupation as Coolie Workers and Absence of Complaint

Case Title: Sannaswamy @ Thimnegowda and Others vs. State

Case Number: CRL.P No. 4323 of 2024

Dated On: 21st May, 2024

Quorum: The Hon’ble Mr. Justice S Rachaih

FACTS OF THE CASE

The case revolves around an incident reported on March 24, 2024, where the complainant, Smt. Akshitha K.P., received credible information about individuals cutting sandalwood trees in a coffee estate owned by Manjunatha. Upon investigation, it was found that four individuals, identified as Sannaswamy, Manjunatha, Anjaneya, and Omkara, were involved in the act. The complainant, along with her staff and witnesses, apprehended the accused at the scene. According to the complaint, the accused were caught red-handed cutting sandalwood trees without the necessary permits or licences, as mandated by the Karnataka Forest Act, 1963. The trees were subsequently seized and weighed, revealing that 18 to 20 kilograms of sandalwood had been cut, with an estimated worth of Rs. 1,20,000. The defence, represented by counsel Girish B. Baladare, argued that the accused were innocent coolie workers falsely implicated in the case. They emphasised that the estate owner, Manjunatha, had not filed any complaint regarding the alleged tree cutting, casting doubt on the veracity of the charges. In opposition, the State argued through its representative, Smt. Sowmya R accused No. 3 had a previous history of similar offences, the involvement of accused Nos. 1, 2, and 4 in the current case suggested a pattern of criminal behaviour. Concerns were raised about the possibility of the accused committing further offences if granted bail and the potential for them to abscond. After considering the submissions from both sides and examining the details of the case, the court concluded that while accused No. 3’s bail would be denied due to his history of similar offences, accused Nos. 1, 2, and 4 would be granted bail. However, this bail was subject to stringent conditions, including the posting of a substantial personal bond and surety, regular reporting to the Investigating Officer, staying within the court’s jurisdiction, and refraining from threatening or tampering with witnesses.

ISSUES

  1. Whether the accused individuals, identified as Sannaswamy, Manjunatha, Anjaneya, and Omkara, were indeed involved in the cutting of sandalwood trees without the necessary permits or licences, as alleged by the complainant.
  2. Whether the accused were falsely implicated in the case, as claimed by the defence counsel, who argued that they were innocent coolie workers and that the estate owner, Manjunatha, had not filed any complaint regarding the alleged tree cutting.
  3. Whether the previous history of similar offences by accused No. 3 should influence the bail decision for accused Nos. 1, 2, and 4, as argued by the State, which opposed bail for all the accused based on concerns about potential further offences and the likelihood of absconding if bail were granted.

LEGAL PROVISIONS

  1. Section 379 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC): This section deals with the offence of theft, stating that whoever commits theft shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
  2. Sections 86 and 87 of the Karnataka Forest Act, 1963: These sections of the state forest law likely pertain to regulations regarding the cutting, transportation, and possession of forest produce such as sandalwood. They may outline the requirements for obtaining permits or licences for such activities and prescribe penalties for violations, including fines and imprisonment.
  3. Section 439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.): This section deals with the power of the High Court and the Court of Sessions to grant bail in non-bailable offences. It provides the court with the discretion to release an accused person on bail pending trial, subject to certain conditions, if the court deems it appropriate.

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT

Girish B. Baladare, counsel of the appellant submitted that the accused, namely Sannaswamy, Manjunatha, Anjaneya, and Omkara, were innocent and falsely implicated in the case. They asserted that the accused were merely coolie workers, earning their livelihood through manual labour at various estates in and around Chikmagalur. The defence emphasised that the estate owner, Manjunatha, had not filed any complaint regarding the alleged tree cutting, implying a lack of credible evidence supporting the prosecution’s claims. Furthermore, the defence maintained that the alleged act of cutting sandalwood trees was baseless and false. They contended that there was no substantial proof linking the accused to the crime, especially considering the absence of any complaint from the estate owner. Additionally, the defence highlighted the dependency of the accused’s families on their income from coolie work, implying that their continued detention would cause undue hardship. In summary, the defence argued for the innocence of the accused and sought their release on bail, asserting that they posed no flight risk and would abide by any conditions imposed by the court.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENT

The respondent vehemently opposed the bail application put forth by the accused through their counsel. It was argued that accused Nos. 1, 2, and 4, named Sannaswamy, Manjunatha, Anjaneya, and Omkara respectively, were associates of accused No. 3, who had a documented history of similar offences. Accused No. 3, when previously granted bail, had allegedly continued engaging in criminal activities. The respondent contended that upon being released on bail, accused No. 3 formed an association with accused Nos. 1, 2, and 4, resulting in the commission of similar offences. This association suggested a pattern of criminal behaviour, which posed a risk to the community if bail were granted. Moreover, the respondent argued that there were significant concerns regarding the potential for the accused to commit similar offences if released on bail. It was asserted that granting bail to the accused could lead to further instances of forest-related crimes, posing a threat to the environment and public safety. The respondent emphasised that the alleged offence had been committed against the State, indicating the seriousness of the matter and the need for stringent measures to prevent recurrence. Furthermore, the respondent highlighted the possibility of the accused absconding if granted bail. Given the gravity of the charges and the potential consequences of the accused failing to appear for trial, it was argued that bail should be denied to ensure the accused’s presence throughout legal proceedings. In summary, the respondent opposed the bail application for accused Nos. 1, 2, and 4 based on concerns regarding their association with a habitual offender, the risk of further offences, and the potential for absconding. These arguments were presented to persuade the court to reject the bail application and uphold the interests of justice and public safety.

COURT’S ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

After considering the submissions from both the defence and the prosecution, the court analysed the facts of the case and the arguments presented by each party. The court noted that the complainant had received credible information about the accused individuals allegedly cutting sandalwood trees without the required permits. The accused were apprehended at the scene, and the seized trees were weighed, revealing a significant quantity of sandalwood.

The court acknowledged the defence’s contention that the accused were innocent coolie workers and emphasised the absence of a complaint from the estate owner, Manjunatha. However, the court also took note of the respondent’s argument regarding the association of accused Nos. 1, 2, and 4 with a habitual offender, accused No. 3, and the potential for further offences if bail were granted.

Considering the nature of the offence and the prescribed punishment, the court concluded that while accused No. 3’s bail would be denied due to his previous history of similar offences, bail would be granted to accused Nos. 1, 2, and 4. However, this bail was subject to stringent conditions aimed at addressing the concerns raised by the prosecution.

The court ordered accused Nos. 1, 2, and 4 to be enlarged on bail in Crime No. 39/2024 of Aldur Police Station, Chikkamagaluru, upon furnishing a personal bond of Rs. 1,00,000 each with one surety each. Additionally, several conditions were imposed, including refraining from similar offences, regular appearances before the Investigating Officer, staying within the court’s jurisdiction, and not threatening or tampering with witnesses.

In summary, the court allowed the bail application in part, granting bail to accused Nos. 1, 2, and 4 while denying bail to accused No. 3. The court’s judgement aimed to balance the interests of justice with concerns regarding the potential for further offences and the accused’s compliance with bail conditions.

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 Judgement Reviewed by – Shruti Gattani

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Karnataka High Court Grants Bail Amidst Reconciliation Efforts in Domestic Abuse Case

Case Title: Hanish Abdul Khadar vs. State of Karnataka & Shilpa

Case Number: CRL.A No. 582 of 2024

Dated On: 21st May, 2024

Quorum: Hon’ble Mr. Justice S Rachiah

FACTS OF THE CASE

Hanish Abdul Khadar and Shilpa were married on July 15, 2021. Following their marriage, the couple began residing at Shobha Arcades Apartment in Horamavu, Bangalore. Despite the initial period of settling into their married life, their relationship soon became strained. The environment in their household was marked by frequent quarrels and conflicts, which disrupted their domestic harmony. According to the complaint filed by Shilpa, she faced continuous harassment from Hanish. She alleged that Hanish subjected her to various forms of mistreatment and failed to take proper care of her. The harassment was not limited to physical neglect but also involved emotional and psychological abuse. Shilpa’s dissatisfaction and distress grew as she felt unsupported and mistreated in her matrimonial home. Despite the ongoing marital issues, Shilpa became pregnant and gave birth to a child on April 5, 2022. The birth of their child, instead of bringing the couple closer, further strained their relationship. Shilpa alleged that after the birth of their child, Hanish deserted her. She claimed that he threw her out of their home, citing her scheduled caste background as the primary reason for such drastic action. This act of desertion left Shilpa and their newborn child without support or shelter. Aggrieved by the treatment she received, Shilpa lodged a formal complaint against Hanish with the Hennur Police Station. The police registered a case under Crime No.456/2023. Following the registration of the complaint, the police conducted an investigation into the allegations. The investigation culminated in the submission of a charge sheet against Hanish, detailing the alleged offences and the evidence gathered.

ISSUES 

  1. Whether the order passed by the LXX Addl. City Civil and Sessions Judge and Special Judge at Bengaluru (CCH-71) in Crl.Misc.No.2244/2024 dated 05.03.2024, which denied bail to Hanish Abdul Khadar, should be set aside.
  2. Whether the allegations that Hanish Abdul Khadar deserted and harassed Shilpa based on her scheduled caste background are substantiated and justify the charges under Sections 3(1)(a), 3(1)(r), 3(2)(va), 3(1)(w)(i) of the SC/ST Act.
  3. Whether the reported reconciliation and mutual decision to live together between Hanish Abdul Khadar and Shilpa should influence the court’s decision to grant bail to Hanish, considering the nature and seriousness of the allegations.

LEGAL PROVISIONS

Indian Penal Code (IPC):

  1. Section 498A (Cruelty by Husband or Relatives of Husband):
    • This section deals with the cruelty inflicted by the husband or his relatives on the wife, which includes any willful conduct that is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or cause grave injury to her physical or mental health.

2. Section 354 (Assault or Criminal Force to Woman with Intent to Outrage Her Modesty):

    • This section punishes anyone who assaults or uses criminal force on a woman with the intent to outrage her modesty.

3. Section 506 (Criminal Intimidation):

    • This section deals with the offense of criminal intimidation, where a person threatens another with injury to their person, reputation, or property, with the intent to cause alarm.

Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (SC/ST Act):

  1. Section 3(1)(a):
    • This section punishes any person who forces a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe to drink or eat any inedible or obnoxious substance.

2. Section 3(1)(r):

    • This section punishes anyone who intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view.

3. Section 3(2)(va):

    • This section provides for enhanced punishment for offenses under the Indian Penal Code, committed against a person on the ground that such person is a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe.

4. Section 3(1)(w)(i):

    • This section deals with the punishment for any person who, being in a position to dominate the will of a woman belonging to a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe and uses that position to exploit her sexually to which she would not have otherwise agreed.

Section 14(A)(2) of SC/ST Act, 1989:

  • This provision allows for an appeal against the order of a Special Court or an Exclusive Special Court denying bail to an accused person. The section ensures that the accused has the right to appeal to a higher court for the grant of bail.

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT

The appellant, Hanish Abdul Khadar, through his counsel, contended that the allegations made by his wife, Shilpa, stemmed from a series of misunderstandings and misconceptions. He argued that despite the serious nature of the accusations, Shilpa had agreed to reconcile with him. The couple had decided to resolve their differences and live together again. The appellant’s counsel emphasised that the willingness to reconcile and cohabit suggested that the situation had been misinterpreted and was capable of amicable resolution outside the judicial process. Hanish’s counsel further argued that the offences charged against him under Sections 498A, 354, and 506 of the Indian Penal Code, and Sections 3(1)(a), 3(1)(r), 3(2)(va), and 3(1)(w)(i) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, were not severe enough to warrant continued denial of bail. It was highlighted that the alleged offences did not involve punishment with death or imprisonment for life, thus meriting consideration for bail. Additionally, the appellant assured the court of his commitment to abide by any conditions imposed as part of his bail. He pledged to appear before the court on all specified dates and to refrain from tampering with evidence or intimidating prosecution witnesses. The counsel stressed that these assurances mitigated the risks associated with granting bail, ensuring compliance with legal protocols and protection of the complainant’s interests. The appellant’s counsel posited that granting bail would facilitate the restoration of the couple’s matrimonial life, benefiting both parties and their child. They argued that the judicial system should support the reconciliation process, enabling the family to overcome past grievances and build a stable future together. The counsel urged the court to consider the broader social and familial implications of granting bail, promoting harmony and resolution over prolonged litigation. These contentions underscored the appellant’s position that the allegations were based on misunderstandings, the offences did not justify prolonged detention, and the reconciliation between the parties warranted a compassionate and practical approach by the court in granting bail.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENT

The respondent, represented by the State Public Prosecutor, vehemently opposed the appellant’s appeal for bail. They argued that the allegations levelled against the appellant by his wife, Shilpa, were of a grave nature and warranted serious consideration. The respondent contended that the accusations of harassment, emotional abuse, and discrimination based on caste were significant and could not be dismissed lightly. Furthermore, the respondent highlighted the potential risk of the appellant committing similar offences if released on bail. Given the severity of the charges and the history of discord in the marital relationship, there was concern that granting bail might embolden the appellant to engage in further misconduct or intimidation towards the complainant or other potential witnesses. This risk underscored the necessity of ensuring the safety and security of the complainant and upholding the integrity of the judicial process. The respondent stressed the importance of obtaining formal confirmation from the complainant, Shilpa, regarding any purported reconciliation or settlement between the parties. Without a clear and unequivocal statement from Shilpa, it was argued that the court could not rely solely on the appellant’s assertions regarding reconciliation. The respondent emphasised the need for the complainant’s affidavit or appearance in court to corroborate any claims of reconciliation and assess the voluntariness and sincerity of such actions. In conclusion, the respondent urged the court to deny the appellant’s appeal for bail, citing the seriousness of the allegations, the risk of reoffending, and the absence of clear evidence or confirmation of reconciliation. They emphasised the need to prioritise the protection and welfare of the complainant, ensuring her safety and access to justice without undue influence or intimidation. These contentions presented by the respondent underscored the gravity of the allegations, the potential risks associated with granting bail, and the necessity of formal confirmation from the complainant regarding any reconciliation or settlement between the parties.

COURT’S ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

After carefully considering the arguments presented by both parties and examining the contents of the charge sheet, the court acknowledged the strained nature of the marital relationship between the appellant, Hanish Abdul Khadar, and the respondent, Shilpa. The court noted the serious allegations of harassment, emotional abuse, and discrimination based on caste raised by Shilpa against Hanish. However, the court also took into account the appellant’s contention regarding the possibility of reconciliation between the parties. The reported willingness of Hanish and Shilpa to resolve their differences and live together again suggested the potential for a peaceful resolution outside the judicial process.

In light of the above considerations, the court proceeded to grant bail to the appellant, Hanish Abdul Khadar. The court recognized the importance of facilitating the restoration of the matrimonial life of the parties involved. It emphasised the need to support efforts towards reconciliation and harmony within the family, particularly for the well-being of their child.

The court imposed specific conditions on the bail granted to Hanish Abdul Khadar to ensure compliance with legal protocols and safeguard the interests of the complainant, Shilpa. These conditions included the appellant’s mandatory appearance before the court on all specified dates, refraining from tampering with evidence or intimidating prosecution witnesses, and complying with any other directives issued by the court. Furthermore, the court warned that any violation of the bail conditions would result in the prosecution being at liberty to seek the cancellation of bail. This provision served as a deterrent against potential misconduct by the appellant and reinforced the importance of upholding the integrity of the legal process.

In conclusion, the court’s judgement aimed to strike a balance between the rights of the accused and the protection of the complainant’s interests. It sought to facilitate the reconciliation process while ensuring accountability and adherence to legal norms, thereby promoting the principles of justice and equity in the resolution of the case.

“PRIME LEGAL is a full-service law firm that has won a National Award and has more than 20 years of experience in an array of sectors and practice areas. Prime legal fall into a category of best law firm, best lawyer, best family lawyer, best divorce lawyer, best divorce law firm, best criminal lawyer, best criminal law firm, best consumer lawyer, best civil lawyer.”

 Judgement Reviewed by – Shruti Gattani

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Navigating Intellectual Property Rights: The Legal Battle Over Captain Marvel’s Trademark and Copyright

Abstract

The legal landscape of intellectual property (IP) is complex, particularly when it comes to the protection of popular comic book characters. This article explores the intricate legal dispute surrounding the character Captain Marvel, emphasizing the interplay between copyright and trademark law within the comic book industry. Captain Marvel’s story begins with Fawcett Comics in the late 1930s, where a young boy named Billy Batson transforms into the superhero Captain Marvel. However, this character soon became the subject of a significant legal battle when DC Comics claimed that Captain Marvel was an unauthorized copy of their iconic character, Superman. The case, National Comics Publications, Inc. v. Fawcett Publications, Inc., saw DC Comics alleging substantial similarities between the two characters, leading to a protracted legal battle that ended with Fawcett ceasing publication of Captain Marvel.

The narrative then shifts to Marvel Comics, which registered the trademark for Captain Marvel in the 1960s after the name had fallen out of use. This move allowed Marvel Comics to create their own Captain Marvel character and secure exclusive rights to the name. Meanwhile, DC Comics, having acquired the rights to the original Captain Marvel from Fawcett, was forced to publish the character under the title “Shazam!” due to Marvel’s trademark.

The article highlights the importance of IP rights in the comic book industry, using this case as a focal point to discuss broader themes of copyright infringement and trademark disputes. Additionally, it references notable case laws such as Sholay Media and Entertainment Pvt Ltd. v. RGV Productions Pvt. Ltd. and Arbaaz Khan v. Northstar Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., which further illustrate the nuances of protecting character rights. The Captain Marvel saga underscores the necessity for creators to diligently secure and defend their IP rights to prevent unauthorized use and maintain the integrity of their creations.

Keywords: Captain Marvel, copyright, trademark, DC Comics, intellectual property, legal dispute, copyright infringement

Introduction

The audience’s fascination with comic book and movie characters is a testament to the profound impact these creations have on popular culture and individual lives. Iconic figures like Mickey Mouse, Chotta Bheem, and Shaktiman have become more than just sources of entertainment; they are cultural landmarks that have shaped the imaginations and experiences of millions. These characters’ wide appeal translates into significant opportunities for profit and goodwill for their owners and creators. To forge such memorable and engaging characters, artists channel their creativity to develop unique styles and distinct features, allowing them to express novel ideas and concepts that captivate audiences.

Characters like Mickey Mouse, with his timeless charm, or Shaktiman, with his heroic persona, are crafted with meticulous attention to detail and imagination. This creative process not only brings these characters to life but also ensures that they stand out in a crowded entertainment landscape. The creators behind these beloved figures invest considerable effort and ingenuity in their development, aiming to create personas that resonate deeply with viewers and readers.

Given the significant investment of time, creativity, and resources in developing these characters, it is only natural for character designers to seek ways to protect their work and derive financial benefits from it. Intellectual property rights, particularly copyright, play a crucial role in safeguarding these creations from unauthorized use. Copyright protection ensures that creators retain control over their characters, allowing them to monetize their efforts through various channels such as merchandising, licensing, and adaptations.

Advertisers and licensees, recognizing the lucrative potential of popular characters, are equally motivated to secure the rights to use these personas. They aim to leverage the established popularity and emotional connection these characters have with audiences to drive their own commercial success. However, without proper protection, characters can be vulnerable to unauthorized usage, leading to potential financial loss for both creators and legitimate licensees.

The compelling justification for intellectual property rights in the realm of character creation lies in the balance it provides: protecting the creators’ interests while fostering an environment where creative expression can thrive. By ensuring that characters are shielded from exploitation, copyright law not only rewards creators for their ingenuity but also encourages the continual development of new and innovative personas that enrich our cultural landscape.

In essence, the protection of intellectual property rights for character designs is a vital strategy that underpins the sustainable success of both creators and the industries that rely on these characters. It ensures that the magic of beloved figures like Mickey Mouse, Chotta Bheem, and Shaktiman can continue to captivate and inspire future generations, while also enabling creators to reap the financial rewards of their creative endeavors.

Captain Marvel’s Intriguing Story

This article discusses the dispute within the comic verse (comic book universe) regarding the name and persona of Captain Marvel. The significance of copyrights and trademarks and their maintenance are among the legal ramifications. The practical implications here address issues with names for comic books that become complicated. The problem is in the copyright protection of comic book titles. Nevertheless, character names are protected by trademarks, and characters themselves are covered by copyright.[i] A trademark is not automatically granted to an author (although legal registration is the best approach to secure the copyright).[ii] This resulted in the situation below.

The 2019 film’s lead character, Captain Marvel, gets her start from the same-titled Marvel Comics comic book superhero. Marvel Comics’ Captain Marvel ought to have been a natural fit, right? False. Originating in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Captain Marvel (the original Captain Marvel wasn’t even a woman) had his start in the pages of Fawcett Comics. Billy Batson, a young child, assumed the persona of Captain Marvel up until Detective Comics (DC) sued them. Furthermore, Marvel Comics was nowhere to be seen. In the case of National Comics Publications, Inc. v. Fawcett Publications, Inc., et al.[iii], the plaintiff claimed that Captain Marvel bore an excessive resemblance to Superman, citing approximately 160 instances of plagiarism. Superman made a progressive appearance in the comic book scene. The hero class was introduced by him in “Action Comics #1” in 1938. Another legend was Captain Marvel, who debuted in “Whiz Comics #2” (published by Fawcett Comics) in late 1939. DC made a simple claim. Because Captain Marvel’s motivations and characteristics were too similar to those of Superman, it violated Superman’s copyright. According to Fawcett, these two characteristics were comparable, but not to the extent of incursion. Comparable successes have only been achieved by other anecdotal figures, such as Tarzan or Popeye. National Comics created a cover that was more than 150 pages long and included comparison boards between the two exceptional likenesses from their “Superman” and “Captain Marvel” jokes to demonstrate their point of view.

Ultimately, the designated authority determined that “Superman” and “Captain Marvel” were identical. Still, Fawcett prevailed in the preliminary. The news company that published the “Superman” jokes, McClure Syndicate, was determined by Fawcett’s attorneys to have forgotten to add the copyright images to a couple of its strips. They also claimed that DC did not own the copyright to “Superman,” a claim that the court agreed with. DC made a fast bid, and the outcome was reversed. Judge Hand, who presided over the lawsuit, declared “Captain Marvel” to be a deliberate and bold rip off of “Superman” and mandated that Fawcett cease all of its releases and reimburse DC for any losses it sustained. A settlement of up to two or three hundred thousand dollars was reached in 1953 between Fawcett and DC, and Fawcett agreed to stop selling Captain Marvel.[iv]

Fawcett agreed with DC to never publish Captain Marvel stories until “Kingdom Come,” thus by 1967, the character’s name had vanished from circulation. Marvel Comics thus seized the opportunity to register the trademark on their own.

After five years, DC finally bought the rights to Fawcett’s Captain Marvel in 1972, hoping to reintroduce and purge several of the character’s long-forgotten superhuman abilities.

However, Marvel Comics had already released Captain Marvel-themed comics for a while before that point. Long since out of use by DC, trademarks operate under the maxim “use it or lose it.” Once “Captain Marvel” appeared in Marvel Comics, they were granted exclusive usage of the title. Therefore, they were unable to use the term Captain Marvel in merchandise or call the book that same. Rather, DC released Shazam! Billy Batson says this to change into Captain Marvel. For a long time, a lot of people who weren’t comic book readers thought the Fawcett/DC Captain Marvel was called Shazam.

However, as the trademark rights are clear, this hasn’t resulted in a protracted legal battle between Marvel Comics and DC Comics over the usage of “Captain Marvel.” DC was forced to give up using the name eventually. They were still the owners of “Shazam!” and the characterization. They simply renamed their superhero Shazam and did away with the Captain Marvel moniker with the “New 52” revamp. They are attempting to come up with a character name, which then resulted in one of the major jokes in the most current “Shazam!” film. Naturally, they are unable to use “Shazam!” as it causes them to alternate between being mortal and superhuman. It follows that doing research in advance is preferable to filing a case later.

Case Laws

Sholay Media and Entertainment Pvt Ltd. v. RGV Productions Pvt. Ltd.[v]: The renowned film director Ram Gopal Varma was compelled to pay a punitive punishment of Rs. 10 lakhs by the Honorable Delhi High Court. It was imposed for “intentionally and deliberately” ripping off the popular 1975 Hindi film “Sholay,” for infringing on Sholay Media and Entertainment Pvt Ltd’s exclusive copyright, and for incorrectly using the film’s original Gabbar Singh, Jai, Veeru, and Radha protagonists. “The promotional material coupled with the impugned film gives an overall impression that it is a remake of the film Sholay,” Justice Manmohan Singh said in his ruling. Copyright of the original film Sholay is violated by the use of the same plot and characters in the contested picture, as well as the use of background music, lyrics, and language from the original movie.”

Arbaaz Khan v. Northstar Entertainment Pvt. Ltd.[vi] : In this case, the character “Chulbul Pandey” from the Hindi movie “Dabangg” was granted copyright protection by the Bombay High Court. The judge stated that this character is unique due to his distinctive style, which sets him apart from others. From the whole movie, it’s easy to recognize this character. The court’s decision emphasized that even though the storyline may have elements similar to other works, the distinctive characterization of Chulbul Pandey—his mannerisms, dialogues, and appearance—constituted a protectable creative expression under copyright law.

Conclusion

The saga of Captain Marvel’s legal battles provides a compelling case study in the importance of intellectual property rights within the comic book industry. The intricate disputes between DC Comics and Fawcett Comics, and later between DC Comics and Marvel Comics, highlight the delicate balance between protecting creative works and fostering an environment of innovation and fair competition.

The resolution of the Captain Marvel disputes underscores several critical lessons for creators and companies alike. First, the clear delineation and registration of intellectual property rights are paramount. The early oversight by Fawcett Comics in securing robust copyright protections and the subsequent proactive trademark registration by Marvel Comics illustrate the necessity of vigilance in IP management. The maxim “use it or lose it” is particularly poignant in the context of trademarks, as evidenced by Marvel’s ability to claim the Captain Marvel name due to its period of non-use by DC.

Additionally, the importance of understanding the nuances between different types of intellectual property rights is essential. While copyrights protect the creative expression of characters and stories, trademarks secure the names and symbols associated with these characters, ensuring brand recognition and commercial exploitation. The Captain Marvel case demonstrates how these two forms of IP protection can interact and, at times, conflict, necessitating careful strategic planning by rights holders.

Beyond the specifics of the Captain Marvel disputes, broader implications for the entertainment industry become evident. As demonstrated in the cases of Sholay Media and Entertainment Pvt Ltd. v. RGV Productions Pvt. Ltd., Arbaaz Khan v. Northstar Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., the global and cross-media nature of contemporary storytelling requires a robust and dynamic approach to IP protection. These cases reinforce that unique characters, regardless of their medium, warrant and merit legal protection to preserve their creators’ rights and maintain the integrity of their stories.

The dynamic and evolving landscape of digital technologies further amplifies the need for comprehensive IP strategies. As new platforms for content distribution emerge, the risk of unauthorized use increases, making it imperative for creators to adapt and update their IP protections continually. The Captain Marvel narrative, along with the supplementary cases discussed, illustrates the ongoing need for vigilance and proactive measures in safeguarding creative works.

Ultimately, the protection of intellectual property rights serves a dual purpose: it rewards creators for their ingenuity and labor, ensuring they can benefit from their creations, and it fosters an environment of continued innovation and creativity. By protecting the unique expressions that characters like Captain Marvel represent, the legal system helps sustain a vibrant and diverse cultural landscape that can continue to captivate and inspire audiences for generations to come.

In conclusion, the Captain Marvel legal battles serve as a quintessential example of the complexities and necessities of intellectual property rights in the creative industries. They highlight the importance of early and proactive IP management, the interplay between different types of IP protections, and the broader implications for the global entertainment landscape. As the industry continues to evolve, the lessons from these cases will remain pertinent, guiding creators and companies in navigating the ever-changing terrain of intellectual property law.

“PRIME LEGAL is a full-service law firm that has won a National Award and has more than 20 years of experience in an array of sectors and practice areas. Prime legal fall into a category of best law firm, best lawyer, best family lawyer, best divorce lawyer, best divorce law firm, best criminal lawyer, best criminal law firm, best consumer lawyer, best civil lawyer.”

Written by – Shruti Gattani

 

[i]  “ C o p y r i g h t i n G e n e r a l ” (Copyright) < h t t p s : / / www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html> accessed November 19, 2020

[ii] “Trademark Basics” (United States Patent and Trademark Office – An Agency of the Department of CommerceSeptember 25, 2020) accessed November 19, 2020

[iii] National Comics Publications, Inc v Fawcett Publications, Inc et al, 191 F2d 594 (2d Cir 1951) (US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit )

[iv] Lee N, “How a $4 Million Lawsuit Created ‘Shazam!’ and ‘Captain Marvel’ as We Know Them Today” (Business InsiderApril 5, 2019) accessed November 19, 2020.

[v] Sholay Media and Entertainment Pvt Ltd. v. RGV Productions Pvt. Ltd [2015] [CS (OS) 1892/2006]

[vi] Arbaaz Khan v. Northstar Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. (Suit (L) No. 301 of 2016)

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delhi high court

Justice, not law, is, what we have given to ourselves in our constitutional scheme- Delhi High Court

Case title: Dr. Sri Kiruba Nandini M v. National Board of Examination and Anr.

Case no: W.P.(C) 5633/2024

Dated on: May 10

Quorum: Hon’ble Mr. Justice C. Hari Shankar

Facts of the case:

The petitioner has approached this Court, through Writ Petition, seeking an appropriate writ, order or direction, to set aside the letter dated 12-15 March 2024 whereby the Petitioner’s DNB candidature was cancelled. The petitioner completed her MBBS from Annapoorana Medical College and thereafter she appeared for NEET and was admitted to the DNB post-MBBS in Obstetrics and Gynaecology by the Respondent 1 – National Board of Examinations (NBE) where she was to undergo training in Apollo Hospital. In the third year of her training, the petitioner was diagnosed as suffering from Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Chemotherapeutic treatment of the petitioner started on 30 September 2022. Due to Covid-19 pandemic her condition worsened and was placed on ventilator support. On 15 November 2022 she was discharged from the hospital after having undergone 50 days continuous treatment. On 18 January 2023, the petitioner was again admitted to Apollo Hospital where she underwent allogenic stem cell transplant. On 23 May 2023, Fitness Certificate was issued by certifying that the petitioner was on intensive anti-cancer treatment since 27 September 2022 and that she was fit to rejoin work on 10 July 2023. On 21 July 2023, the petitioner rejoined duties at the Apollo Hospital. On 3 October 2023, the Apollo Hospital wrote to the NBEMS, informing that the petitioner was diagnosed with AML on 27 September 2022, for which she had been on continuous treatment; and that she had taken 296 days of leave. The petitioner was extending her course from 19 August 2023, and that the course would be completed on 10 June 2024. On 11 February 2024, the petitioner apprised the NBEMS of her health condition and requested to extend her DNB training programme from 18 August 2023 to 10 June 2024. On 22 February 2024, the NBEMS wrote to Apollo Hospital expressing serious concerns regarding availment of leave without prior approval from NBEMS. The Apollo Hospital replied by stating that they had informed the NBEMS of the critical state of health of the petitioner and the hospital was waiting for the petitioner to recover to submit the requisite documents.  

Issues:

Whether NBEMS was justified in cancelling the candidature of the petitioner on the ground that the petitioner remained absent from DNB training, without prior approval of the NBEMS?  

  Contentions of the appellant:

The petitioner submitted her response explaining the health issues and to accept her leave under extraordinary circumstances and extend the course from 17.08.2023 to 10.06.2024. The NBEMS vide the impugned communication dated 12-15 March 2024 informed the hospital that the petitioner’s DNB candidature had been cancelled by stating that the training institute did not inform NBEMS regarding her absence and that a DNB Trainees can avail a maximum of 30 days of leave in a year and under normal circumstances leave of one year will not be carried forward to the next year and in exceptional cases such as prolonged illness, the leave may be clubbed with prior approval of NBE.  

Contentions of the respondent:

If the petitioner was indisposed for the period during which she did not attend training, she ought to have submitted a leave application so that her request for leave shall be considered by the NBEMS. Prior approval of NBEMS is necessary before a candidate proceeds on leave. It was only on 3 October 2023 that the Apollo Hospital, Chennai wrote to the NBEMS, informing the petitioner’s prior period of absence. It was only six months after the petitioner had rejoined duty in Apollo Hospital that she addressed an application to the NBEMS, seeking regularisation of the period of her absence from duty of 297 days.

Courts analysis and Judgement:

It is clear from the sequence of events and records that the petitioner was in a critical state of health for the entire period during which she remained absent from training. The petitioner was not in a position to submit leave application or forward medical document either to the Hospital or to the NBEMS. The NBEMS does not dispute the bona-fides of the petitioner’s contention that she was undergoing treatment for the critical illness. The claim is also supported by medical documents. On interpreting Rules 4 to 6 of the Leave Rules, it is observed that they do not stipulate that absence from training without prior approval of the NBEMS can result in cancellation of the candidate’s DNB candidature. Rule 5 states that unauthorised absence from DNB/FNB training for more than seven days may lead to cancellation of registration and hence the usage of the word “may” indicate element of discretion. While deciding whether or not to cancel the DNB candidature, the NBEMS is required to keep all these relevant factors and judiciously exercise the said discretion. A distinction needs to be drawn where the absence of the candidate is negligent or unjustified, from a case in which the absence is bona-fide and owing to circumstances which is beyond the control of the candidate. The NBEMS has to keep in mind the overall public interest. The cancellation of the entire DNB program for the reason that the petitioner did not seek leave in advance would not only destroy her morale but would also do complete disservice to the cause of justice. Any decision to cancel the petitioner’s DNB candidature would clearly result in injustice to the petitioner. The two factors which the NBEMS is required to see is whether the seat is carried over, or whether grant of extension to the candidate would compromise the training of existing trainees but no such contention was averred. The petitioner had never issued any show cause notice proposing to cancel her DNB candidature. The communication dated 22 February 2024 is cautioning her to adhere with the NBEMS leave rules. Cancellation of the DNB candidature of a candidate is an extremely serious matter. In Swadeshi Cotton Mills v. U.O.I. concerning strict compliance with the principle audi alteram partem would apply here with all force. No such decision can be taken without issuing a show cause notice wherein the Candidate is not only required to show cause against cancellation of her candidature, but must also set out the reasons and thereafter an opportunity of personal hearing before taking a decision. The Respondent has failed to follow these procedures and hence the impugned decision cannot sustain in law. Accordingly, the impugned order dated 12/15 March 2024 is quashed and set aside. The DNB candidature of the petitioner is restored. The writ petition stands allowed accordingly, with no orders as to costs.  

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Judgement reviewed by- Parvathy P.V.
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