Continuing from my earlier post today, available over here, I would like to briefly examine whether the lawsuit in question is even maintainable under the law as it stands.
To briefly recap, since August, 2012 there have been three rounds of litigation wherein music labels have sought judicial intervention to restrain the Registrar of Copyrights from carrying on an inquiry into the state of affairs at IPRS. They have managed to succeed in large measure by filing a civil suit before Barasat Courts and have impleaded the Registrar of Copyrights as a party to the dispute. The District Judge appears to have restrained (to be confirmed) the Registrar from carrying out his inquiry any further until further hearings.
While the exact prayer of the lawsuit filed by Aasha Audio is not clear, I’m still puzzled as to how the Registrar is being restrained from carrying out his statutory duties by a District Judge adjudicating a civil suit. The reason for my puzzlement is Section 76 of the Copyright Act, 1957. I reproduce the section as follows:
76. Protection of action taken in good faith. - No suit or other legal proceeding shall lie against any person in respect of anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done in pursuance of this Act.
The above provision gives the Registrar of Copyright and any other officer of the Central Government complete immunity from any lawsuit or legal proceeding for any action under the Copyright Act, 1957. This is a standard provision in all Indian legislation and is a form of sovereign immunity, which protects the government from being sued in civil courts.
This provision obviously does not prohibit the filing of a legal proceeding before the High Courts for violation of the Constitution and the due process rights contained therein. The reason for this being the words “in pursuance of this Act” i.e. the Copyright Act, 1957.
If the Registrar of Copyrights does not have the power to carry out this inquiry or if he is executing the inquiry in an unjust manner, the only relief for Asha Audio is to approach the High Court through a writ petition under Article 226.
Why then is the Registrar being made party to these civil suits?
There is a huge strategic advantage for Javed Akhtar to have these proceedings shifted to a High Court because not only is the adjudication at High Courts of a far superior quality to anything in the District Court, but also because the Government has much better lawyers in High Courts to defend the Registrar of Copyrights. If this case lands up in a High Court the Registrar of Copyrights will be defended by an Additional Solicitor General.