DELHI HIGH COURT REFUSES INJUNCTION AGAINST FILM ‘THE WHITE TIGER’

The #DelhiHighCourt has in a recent case of Mr. John Hart Jr. and Anr. vs Mr. Mukul Deora and Others, passed a Judgment dated 21-01-2021 and reiterated the principles of grant and refusal of #injunction, especially, in cases where injunction is sought against release of a cinematographic #film.

In this case, the Plaintiff No. 1 claimed exclusive copyright (Copyright) to make a movie adaptation from the book ‘#TheWhiteTiger’ authored by Mr. Aravind Adiga, by virtue of a Literary Option/Purchase Agreement dated 04-03-2009 (the Agreement). The Plaintiff No. 1 filed a Suit in the Delhi High Court and sought for interim injunction against the Defendants who were then planning to release the movie ‘The White Tiger’ featuring Adarsh Gourav, Rajkummar Rao and Priyanka Chopra in the lead on 22-01-2021 on Netflix (Movie).

The Plaintiff No. 1 claimed that by allowing the Defendants to release the Movie, it would infringe their Copyright. He further submitted that having exclusive Copyright to produce a movie based on the said Novel, he would have released it in the Hollywood on a much larger scale. Thus, it is highly important that the High Court passes an interim injunction against the release of the Movie on Netflix during the pendency of the Suit, otherwise it would cause irreparable injury to Plaintiffs.

The Delhi High Court made the following observations pertaining to the issue of grant or refusal of injunction in this case:

1- That the Plaintiffs were aware about the possibility of release of the Movie on Netflix since October 2019. However, the Plaintiffs have approached the High Court only on 21-10-2021, i.e. only 24 hours before its release. The Plaintiffs waited all this while for the Defendants to spend huge sums of money and energy in completion of the Movie and then approach the Court to seek for injunction against its release, at the last moment.

2- Based on various judgments and precedents, the Delhi High Court held that the balance of convenience shifts to the Defendants, who have invested huge sums of money and entered into tie ups with third parties for release of this Movie and by granting injunction at the eleventh hour would cause them much more irreparable loss and injury. There are several authorities for the proposition that a plaintiff who approaches the court at the eleventh hour, seeking interlocutory injunction against the release of a cinematographic film, is disentitled to any such relief.

3- That the Plaintiffs have tried to misuse the judicial process by deliberately waiting till the last minute and thereafter, pressurising the Court staff to file the case on urgent basis and compelling the Court to pass a hurried order with little or no assessment on merits.

4- Moreover, where the loss occasioned to the plaintiff is capable of being adequately compensated in monetary terms, an injunction, especially of release of a cinematographic film, ought not to be granted.

Thus, the High Court held that the Plaintiffs are disentitled from grant of interim injunction against the release of the Movie on Netflix, on the grounds that the Plaintiffs have not established any prima facie case against the Defendants for grant of interim relief and that the Plaintiffs have caused unreasonable and unconscionable delay in approaching the Court, which has allowed the damage, if any, caused to it.  

Harini Daliparthy

Senior Legal Associate

The Indian Lawyer

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