It has been a trend in the cine industry to file for copyright infringement against a movie when the said movie is due for release. In a recent judgment of Dashrath B. Rathod And Ors v. Fox Star Studios India Private Ltd. rendered by the Hon’ble Bombay High Court on March 21, 2017, people witnessed the brutal order by Justice G.S. Patel for pressing the Court to hear the case in the last minute.

Facts of the scenario:

The Plaintiff, Dashrath B Rathod, a Bhojpuri actor as well as a producer, filed a case against the production house of the Bollywood movie “Phillauri” alleging that they copied the plot of the movie Mangal phera, which was a trilingual movie released in Bhojpuri, Gujarati and Nepali in the year 2013.

The Plaintiff contended that their movie revolved around the concept of manglik person (someone born under an unlucky star) marrying a tree and that in the movie ‘Phillauri’ the protagonist who is manglik marries a tree, which is haunted by the spirit of a woman.

The trailer of the movie Phillauri was on- air from February 6, 2017 which confirmed that the theatrical release date was March 24, 2017. Following this, the Plaintiff’s Advocate sent a legal notice to the defendant and they reverted as early as March 2, 2017.

The Courtroom drama:

The foremost question put forth by the Justice was that why the defendants chose to file for copyright infringement three days prior to the date of release despite having an entire month thus, he finds no reason to grant priority. What seems to have aroused the Justice was when the Notice of Motion wasn’t lodged by the plaintiff and in his words:

Now Mr. Saboo wants me to take up the matter this afternoon. I cannot; there are other matters on board. Mr. Saboo insists. He says the matter can be argued immediately. This is despite my pointing out there is no Motion lodged.

I find against the Plaintiffs (a) on lack of genuine urgency; or (b) on merits (or both), there may well be severe consequences.

The plaintiffs claim that there are scenes which have been portrayed in a very similar way from their movie. But the court observes that there are certain parts of the film which are Scene a faire which simply means a certain act or scene in a film/book which is inevitable to the genre of the work. Also, in the words of the Justice:

I am now making it clear once and for all that these attempts at snatching last-minute injunctions, unfairly prejudicing the other side, and putting other litigants to real hardship (not mere inconvenience), let alone putting Courts and their infrastructure under pressure, will not be tolerated. Our Courts are not meant for these frivolities.

Thus, the decision was against the plaintiffs and it appears that they were adjudged to pay a sum of five lakhs citing the Supreme Court Decision in Dnyandeo Sabaji Naik v. Mrs Pradnya Prakash Khadekar & Ors [SLP (C) Nos 25331-33 of 2015] reiterating the fact that such practices where the litigant abuses the sanctity of Judicial process will be considered seriously. Also, quoted that frivolous and groundless filings constitute a serious menace to the administration of justice. Hence, the Court penanced the plaintiff to pay the sum of five lakhs (under the provision Section 35 and 35A of CPC). The Sections 35 and 35A of the Civil Procedure Code deals with the Compensatory costs for the frivolous and vexatious claims. He also mentioned that the sum would segregate itself into two equal parts to Legal Aid Cell and Tata Memorial Hospital.


This case is significant as it conveys the importance of time which people cannot afford to delay by approaching the Court as per their whims and fancies. The Plaintiffs cannot take their own sweet time, rather ought to take a strategic approach to deal with the perpetrators. And yes, people who procrastinate, beware it can cost you a fortune.

Although I believe the fact that to circumvent the clogging of cases in the court it is vital to curb such last-minute petitions by being curt and imposing costs to the plaintiff, it is equally important to analyze both the work closely in order to gauge if there has been a copyright infringement.  It is evident that Justice G.S. Patel was provoked by the fact that the Plaintiff approached the court at the 11th hour despite having four weeks of window and was impelled to hear the matter right away. Also, it appears that the plaintiff came forth with the suit quite close to the release date of the movie.

However, in my opinion, that doesn’t give the liberty to the defendants to go scot-free. I wouldn’t justify the act of plaintiff pressing the Court at the last moment, however, tests such as Substantial Similarity or Lay Observers Test might have been more pragmatic to acumen if there was any copyright  infringement.


This article has been authored by Archana Selvam a law student based out of Chennai, India. She is pursuing law at VIT Law School, Chennai.