Supreme Court dismisses IPRS’ SLP

law-series-4-1467436In yet another blow to the Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS), the Supreme Court in the controversial case of IPRS v. Union of India dismissed the Special Leave Petition (SLP) wherein IPRS sought to reverse the order of the Bombay High Court that asked the government to look into the affairs and alleged irregularities of the self-proclaimed-but-denying-at-convenience copyright society.

In February 2014, the government (HRD ministry) passed an order appointing an inquiry officer as per Section 36(2) of the Copyright Act 1957 and provisions of Copyright Rules, 2013 to look into the irregularities and provide a feedback on IPRS. To this effect, a retired Chief Justice of Punjab & Haryana High Court was appointed as the inquiry officer. This order came in the light of several complaints by various musicians, composers (Javed Akhtar, Lalit Pandit amongst others). Two show-cause notices were issued to look into the alleged violations comprising of non-distribution of royalties to authors and composers by imposing illegal conditions; illegal transfer of mechanical rights and ringtones royalties by the IPRS to Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL); forgery of signatures or misrepresentation by the management of IPRS to the Ministry, etc. Aggrieved by this order, IPRS filed the said writ petition in June challenging this order on two ground – first, that it had ceased to exist as a registered copyright society post the 2012 amendment, which required the Copyright Societies to re-register (IPRS withdrew its application few days earlier). Secondly, it was contended that the inquiry officer can only be above the rank of Deputy Secretary to the Government, thus questioning the appointment of the inquiry officer, who resigned in order to avoid further controversy.

The court’s order of March 2015, declared that IPRS had approached the court with malafide intentions. The shifty stand of the society – on one hand contending that it has ceased to exist as a registered society at the Bombay High Court, and on the other hand filing a suit as a registered copyright society at the Delhi High Court, was taken into account by the court. Rejecting IPRS’ plea, it was declared that IPRS was a registered society at the time of the alleged irregularities.The Court reasoned: “if we were to accept the submission of the petitioner, it would be adding premium to dishonesty. In a given case, a society registered as a copyright society, after having committed irregularities and violations, to avoid an inquiry, would simply deregister itself.”[1] Therefore, the court stated that it did “not find any merit in the petition”.

With the dismissal of this SLP, IPRS has exhausted all its available legal remedies. The fate of IPRS now lies in the hands of HRD Ministry, who will appoint an inquiry officer to carry out the further necessary action.

 

[1] “Supreme Court dismisses IPRS’ attempt to block government enquiry”, available at <http://www.radioandmusic .com/biz/regulators/150916-supreme-court-dismisses-iprs%E2%80%99-attempt-block-government> (Last visited on 30 September 2015)

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