The Bombay High Court on Monday granted ad-interim protection from arrest to the directors, and employees of Sony Pictures Network India Pvt Ltd, owner of the SonyLIV OTT platform in a case involving alleged defamation and trademark infringement of logo of Karad Urban Co-operative Bank (KUCB) [Sony Pictures Network India Pvt. Ltd. v. State of Maharashtra & Anr.]
Senior Advocate Shirish Gupte appearing for Sony made two fold submissions:
That no FIR could have been registered for an offence of defamation considering it was a non-cognizable offence;
That the offences under the Trademarks Act have to be investigated by an officer equivalent or higher than the rank of Deputy Superintendent of the Police; however in the present case, the investigation is being conducted by an Inspector.
Senior Advocate Amit Desai appearing for Applause Entertainment Ltd, the producer of the series, stated that as per the judgment in the case of Prateek Chandragupt Goyal v. State of Maharashtra the offence of infringement is not made out.
He argued that the petitioners in the present case and the complainant bank were also not in the same trade or business.
A Bench of Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar directed the Pune Police to reflect on the grounds in the petition and the submissions made by the Senior Counsel.
The Court stated that till the corrections are not made by the officers, the investigation will be stayed.
"At this stage it is not necessary to elaborate further, suffice it is to say that the investigation cannot go on further. Ad-interim stay on the investigation granted till next date of hearing," the Court ordered.
Sony moved the High Court seeking to quash the FIR lodged on complaint by KUCB against unknown persons, alleging that in one of the episodes of the SonyLIV series 'Scam 1992, The Harshad Mehta story', a logo was displayed in the background which resembled the trademarked logo of KUCB causing serious damage to the "financial, commercial and social reputation" of the bank.
On this complaint, the Pune Police registered an FIR for offences punishable under Section 500 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code, Sections 102, 107 (falsely applying trademarks) of the Trademarks Act and Sections 66C and 43(b) of the Information Technology Act.
The urgency in approaching the High Court was that Pune police had issued notice under Section 41A of the Code of Criminal Procedure thus implying that Sony was an accused in the case.
The matter has been listed for final hearing on September 17, 2021.
Desai appeared for companion petition which was filed by Applause along with the CEO Sameer Nair.
He was instructed by Advocate Vaibhav Bhure and team of Advocates Nidhish Mehrotra, Hemangi Abhyankar, Viveka Truman and Navankur Pathak from ANM Global Inc.