Bata v. Fox Star Studios Pvt Ltd & Ors.

This article was written by Anjali Siddhu, Co-Founder & Cheif Organizing Officer, Racolb Legal.

A criminal complaint has been filed by Bata India Ltd against Fox Star Studios Pvt. Ltd & Ors. including the producers and director of Jolly LLb 2, bollywood actors Akshay Kumar & Annu Kapoor for showing “Bata”– a famous shoe company in a bad light in its first official trailer through a dialogue in which advocate says “Varna kya….Bata ka hota pehan kar tucchi si terricot ki shirt pehan kar Sala hum se zabaan lda rha hai”. The said dialogue was translated in English for the purposes of  subtitles in the following manner

“who are you to argue with me in your cheap shoes & shabby clothes”.

Pursuant to the above, Bata India Limited initially served a cease and desist notice to the producers and the entire team responsible for publication and circulation of the official trailer. Despite the service of the legal notice, the producers and the team did not stop the circulation of the impugned trailer.

In this background, a civil suit for injunction restraining infringement of trade mark, commercial disparagement and defamation and damages of Rs. 3 Crores was filed by Bata India Ltd. in the Delhi High Court. Faced with a legal action, the producers made an undertaking that they shall not use the word BATA in the movie. They further undertook to cease and desist from running the trailer in the movie theatres and to pull down the online versions of the same from the websites.  The suit  for relief of permanent injunction was decreed while the suit for damages was allowed to be continued.

Thereafter, Bata India Limited chose to file a criminal complaint under section 199 (1) of the Cr.P.C. for taking cognizance of the offence punishable under Section 500(punishment for defamation) and section 120(punishment for criminal conspiracy) of the Indian penal code. If we see history of Indian cinema, this was not happened first time. In bollywood movie ‘yeh jawani hai deewani’ also, a suit for defamation of popular brand ‘RoohAfza’ had filed.

In trailer of Jolly llb 2, which was released on Dec. 19, 2017 it showed that even the person to whom such a statement was hurled took the same extremely negative and slapped in reverse. Bata’s counsel Advocate Neeraj Grover argued that common man are influenced by Indian cinema and trailer of Jolly llb 2, which was viewed by millions of people has harmed goodwill of brand. The Ld. ACMM took cognizance of the offence and summoned all the accused persons including Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar on February 8, 2017.

On February 21, 2017, Fox Star Studios Pvt Ltd has filed a petition in Delhi High Court under Section 482 of the CrPC for quashing of the orders ‘taking cognizance of the offenses and the summoning order passed by the court of Ld. ACMM Sandeep Garg, Saket District Court, New Delhi. Fox Star’s counsel senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra and Advocate Saikrishna Rajagopal argued before a bench of Justice Mukta Gupta that taking cognizance of the offence under Section 120B of IPC without obtaining previous sanction under Section 196(2) CrPC is bad in law. Counsel for Fox Star also argued to quash summoning order passed by the Saket District Court, New Delhi. The Hon’ble High Court refused to stay  he proceedings before the trial court.

On Feburuary22, 2017, the court of Ld. ACMM Sandeep Garg passed an order directing counsel for Fox Star to provide the contact details of bollywood actor Akshay Kumar and directed issuance of fresh summons to Akshay Kumar as an accused in the criminal defamation case

In this era of Globalization and competition in marketing, while brands spend Crores on advertisements and it takes many years to earn goodwill,  Celebrities, who charge a big amount for the promotion of a brands, are not expected to cause damage to other brands by using defamatory stuff. Celebrities ought to be much more careful.

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