Bombay High Court Grants Interim Relief to Karan Johar in Personality Rights Case

Bombay High Court Grants Interim Relief to Karan Johar in Personality Rights CaseIn the recent dispute titled Karan Johar v. Indian Pride Advisory Pvt. Ltd & Ors. COMM IPR SUIT (L) NO. 17863 OF 2024 the Bombay High Court, vide its order dated June 13, 2024, granted an interim relief to the Plaintiff Karan Johar, by restraining the release of the film “Shadi Ke Director Karan Aur Johar” / “Shadi Ke Director Karan Johar”, which amounted to an unauthorised use of the Plaintiff’s name in the title of the said film, and further affecting the personality rights as well as other related rights of the Plaintiff.

Background of the Case

The Plaintiff, Karan Johar, is a renowned Bollywood film producer and director, who has given major blockbuster movies. In the present case, the Plaintiff has filed an interim application before the Bombay High Court, seeking an order of temporary injunction, for restraining the Defendants Indian Pride Advisory Pvt Ltd. & Ors. from unauthorisedly using the Plaintiff’s name “Karan Johar” or making any other attributes/references of the Plaintiff in any manner, in the title, promotion, endorsement and publicity of the film, “Shadi Ke Director Karan Aur Johar” / “Shadi Ke Director Karan Johar”. Additionally, the Plaintiff has also prayed for restraining the Defendants from releasing the said film on any mode or medium whatsoever, including theatres, or running any promotional campaign on the social media in relation to the said film, including the trailers, until and unless the Defendants removes the name/reference of the Plaintiff from the title of the said film.

The grievance of the Plaintiff is the title of the said film, who stated that the Defendants have unauthorizedly made use as well as direct reference of the Plaintiff’s name “Karan Johar” in the said film, along with inclusion of the term “Director” in the title of the film. The Plaintiff stated that there is clear mala fide intent apparent on the face of the Defendants for misleading the public, so as to make them believe that the said film is associated with the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff further pointed out that the trailers of the film indicated that the film is in respect of individuals having the name “Karan” and “Johar” who collaborate to become Bollywood Director and are shooting a Bollywood film.

The Plaintiff argued that the Defendants ought to have been aware of the brand name and reputation of the Plaintiff, since both the parties are in the same line of business, and through such unauthorized and illegal use of its name, the Defendants are seeking to capitalize itself by making unjust profits/unlawful gains at the expense of the Plaintiff, and thereby causing wrongful losses to the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff stated that it is a settled position of law that when an entity has obtained a celebrity status, it tends to secure personality rights, rights of publicity and right to privacy and unless his consent is taken for using his personal attributes such as his name and profession.

In support of his arguments, the Plaintiff relied upon the decision of Mr. Shivaji Rao Gaikwad v Varsha Production 2015 (62) PTC 351 (Madras) in which the Madras High Court had dealt with the issue of the personality rights of south superstar Rajnikanth. The Plaintiff relied upon the operational portion of the said decision, in which the court examined the earlier law on right of publicity and privacy, and it stated that the said law has evolved from the right of privacy, which can inhere only in an individual or in any indicia of an individual’s personality like his name, personality traits, signature, voice, etc.

The court further observed that the personality rights tend to vest on those persons having attained the status of being a celebrity. The court rejected the contentions of the Defendants as to the name “Rajnikanth” being common name and which does not refer to the Plaintiff alone. The court also rejected the argument of the Defendant that personality rights have not been recognized under statute in India, whereas it has already been held that personality rights have been recognized by various courts in India, and thus the court granted an injunction in the Plaintiff’s favour.

Apart from the above decision, the Plaintiff relied upon various other judicial precedents, in which the issue of personality rights were at the forefront, such as Anil Kapoor Vs. Simply Life India and Ores., Arun Jaitley Vs. Network Solutions Private Ltd. & Ors, and Titan Industries Ltd. Vs. M/s. Ramkumar Jewellers. The Defendants were duly served with the suit papers through various modes, including emails, WhatsApp, Facebook, as well as by hand delivery, which were duly acknowledged on receipt by those present at the office of the Defendant No. 1. Despite this, the Defendants did not contested the matter.


The court, after hearing the submissions, observed that the Plaintiff has been able to make out a strong prima facie case in its favour for protection of his personality rights, in view of his popularity and fame in the film industry, and having given several blockbuster movies, which have transformed the careers of several successful actors. The court accepted the submissions of the Plaintiff that the said film amounted to an unauthorized / unlawful use of the Plaintiff’s name. The court observed that by using the term “Director” with “Karan Johar” in the title of the said film, the Defendants are unauthorisedly using and interfering with the personality rights of the Plaintiff, which will result in creating confusion in the minds of the public at large that the said film is associated with the Plaintiff, as the public will identify and associate the use of the Plaintiff’s name with the title of the said film only after becoming aware of the said film.

The court took note of the judicial precedents, in which the personality rights of the individuals, who have obtained the status of the celebrity, have been duly protected and enforced. The court held that the Defendants have thus, prima facie, violated the personality rights, right to publicity and right to privacy of the Plaintiff. Accordingly, the court granted an interim relief to the Plaintiff. The matter has been now listed for further consideration on July 10th, 2024.


The above case law highlights the scenario as to how in the recent past Bollywood celebrities and personalities have often been subjected to wilful misuse of their celebrity status in the recent past. As a result, to secure such protection and to retain their status, they have no other option left but to seek the intervention of the courts. The courts have even taken judicial notice of misuse of personality rights of celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor and Jackie Shroff in the recent past.

The personality rights of an individual are analogous to the source of livelihood of such individual and hence, any unauthorized or illegal attempt of violating such rights would tantamount into misappropriation of such status and fame, which the celebrities have achieved in their years of struggle. In today’s time, wherein the technology is at its rampant pace, especially with the advent of the AI, it is high time that the government must come out with legislation in order to enforce and recognize the celebrity status and foster public awareness and education about the personality rights.

Authors: Manisha Singh and Siddharth Pandey

First Published by: Lexology here