Prem Prakash Dhawan v. Aman Dhattarwal & Ors

The Cyber Blog IndiaCase Summary

While employed as a teacher, the plaintiff's claim ownership of notes beyond the curriculum is a matter of evidence/trial.

Prem Prakash Dhawan v. Aman Dhattarwal & Ors
(2021) 281 DLT 343 : 2021 AIR CC 1924
In the High Court of Delhi
CS (Comm) 161/2020
Before Justice V. Kameswar Rao
Decided on April 30, 2021

Relevancy of the Case: While employed as a teacher, the plaintiff’s claim ownership of notes beyond the curriculum is a matter of evidence/trial.

Statutes and Provisions Involved

  • The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (Order VII Rule 11)
  • The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971
  • The Copyright Act, 1957 (Section 16, 17, 2, 57, 61, 9)

Relevant Facts of the Case

  • The plaintiff is a teacher of Chemistry at Delhi Public School and has authored several books on Chemistry. Many well-known publishers have published these books.
  • The plaintiff prepared notes on different topics in Chemistry. He regularly updated these notes to contain additional information beyond the curriculum to benefit those students who wish to prepare for IIT entrance exams.
  • The plaintiff prepared notes in a unique and traditional handwritten manner, instead of printing or typing. He affixed his signature/name on every page of the notes.
  • These notes are a part of his teaching method, with the sole intention of aiding students in their preparation.
  • The first defendant, a former student of the plaintiff, provides services such as online coaching classes and provides lecture notes and videos. He has uploaded scanned copies of the plaintiff’s notes on websites. This resulted in a copyright violation, and he made commercial gains for this.
  • The first defendant did not give any credit to the plaintiff. Further, he added his name or logo to hide the plaintiff’s signature

Prominent Arguments by the Advocates

  • The plaintiff’s counsel submitted that it is neither the duty nor the plaintiff’s obligation under the terms of his employment to create any notes or provide them to the students. The DSE Act governs the teachers employed in DPS, and there is no provision to bar a teacher from filing the present suit highlighting a blatant violation of his rights.
  • The defendant’s counsel submitted that the plaintiff made notes while working at the school. Thus, even if he claims to be the author of the notes, he cannot claim to be the first owner. To claim ownership, the plaintiff must show a contract permitting him to make and share notes outside his employment.

Opinion of the Bench

  • To consider an application under Order 7 Rule 11, only averments made in the plaint have to be taken, presuming them to be correct on the face of it, along with the documents filed in support of the plaint.
  • In this case, it is presumed that the averments are correct, it cannot be said that the suit is filed without any cause of action. Action in terms of Section 17 of the Copyright Act, 1957 is spelt out.

Final Decision

  • The bench rejected the defendant’s plea to dismiss the suit in lieu of Order VII Rule 11.

Anjini Pandey, an undergraduate student at Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, prepared this case summary during her internship with The Cyber Blog India in May/June 2022.