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Bombay HC clears Panipat for Dec 6 release, no interim relief for Marathi author who claimed copyright

Bombay HC clears Panipat for Dec 6 release, no interim relief for Marathi author who claimed copyright

Omkar Gokhale

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday refused to grant interim relief to Marathi Author Vishwas Patil, who had alleged copyright infringement in Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Hindi feature film ‘Panipat’ to be released on Friday.

In doing so, a Single Judge Bench of Justice SC Gupte cleared film’s December 6 worldwide release. The Court held,

“Projecting Maratha warriors in positive or good light is not copyright-able. The case of infringement prima facie not made out even in first blush.”

The Commercial Intellectual Property suit filed by Patil had complained of infringement of copyright of his book ‘Panipat’ and a play ‘Ranangan’ based on a well-known historical episode in the life and history of Peshawas or Marathas in the third battle of Panipat. In this regard, it was claimed that novel was first published in November, 1988 and its 42 editions came out along with translations in English and several Indian languages over the years.

It was further claimed that nearly 400 shows of play ‘ Ranangan’ were staged over the years and Patil has registered it with the Indian Writers Association. In view of this, Patil raised grievance that the defendants (director, producers and writers of the film, ‘Panipat’) have copied  his literary work to make the feature film.

Appearing for the plaintiff, Senior Counsel Virag Tulzapurkar submitted that Patil had perceived Maratha warriors in a positive light for the first time unlike several novels available beforehand including historical accounts of the battle.

Inter alia, it was also argued by Patil a scene where a movie character named Parvatibai (wife of the protagonist, Sadashivrao Bhau Peshwa)holds a sword in the movie trailer is unique to his book. Patil further submitted six to seven distinct elements found in the trailer of the movie was based on his work. Senior Counsel Tulzapurkar argued,

“The film is in substance a qualitative adaption of plaintiff’s expression of third battle of Panipat fought by Marathas and thus infringed plaintiff’s copyright.”

In his interim application, Patil had also sought for a private screening of the movie before its release to allay his apprehensions.

The claims were contested by Senior Counsel Ravi Kadam and Advocate Birendra Saraf for the Producers, Vision World Films, director Ashutosh Gowariker and other defendants.

The Court took note of the submissions made by the defendants explaining the manner in which the film was developed and produced. The defendants further referred to various books and such materials considered by the story and screenplay writers of the film to envisage the story line, characters and unfold the scenes in the movie. In view of the same, the defendants contended that the film does not violate the plaintiff’s rights.

After perusing material on record, Justice Gupte expressed his prima facie opinion that, 

“Unique perception of showing Marathas in positive light itself is not copyright-able. It is not an expression of idea but an idea itself.”

The Court went on to hold,

“The trailer is 3-minute long. These are merely 10-20 seconds clips and from those to say that it is a copy of plaintiff’s work is far-fetched. I am afraid, in order for plaintiff to make out such case, there must be some material prima facie showing serious case of copyright infringement. There is hardly any case of copyright infringement.”

The film will be released on December 6.

The Court has directed parties to the dispute to file rejoinders within four weeks and matter will be heard next after six weeks.

Image source: YouTube