India: Delhi High Court Upholds IILM Decision By Single Judge

Last Updated: 2 January 2009

The appeal in Ram Krishan and Sons Charitable Trust Ltd. v. IILM Business School [FAO(OS) 331/2007 and CM Nos.8434/08, 1136/08, 4200-01/08, 4214-15/08, 15020/07 and 11857-58/07] was instituted against the order of the learned Single Judge, holding, inter alia, that because of concealment and deliberate misstatement of material facts, Ram Krishan and sons were required to be non-suited and that they had no equity in their favour, hence being disentitled to discretionary relief. The subject matter agitated in the Plaint, dwelled on Section 27(2)(no action for infringement of unregistered trade mark) read with Sections 134 (Suit for infringement, etc., to be instituted before District Court) and 135 (Relief in suits for infringement and passing off) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999, praying for a permanent injunction. An ex parte order had been granted restraining IILM Business School from passing off their Institution using the mark IILM in any manner deceptively similar to that of Ram Krishan

It was argued before the Court that the ex parte ad interim injunction granted in favour of Ram Krishan was vacated on the ground of suppression of material facts, but this argument was not found to be entirely correct. The learned Single Judge had returned the findings, on the ground that the plaint contained a false statement regarding Ram Krishan learning of IILM running an Institute with the mark IILM as a prefix or suffix only in July 2007. In the suit, IILM had been referred to not merely as an acronym for Institute for Integrated Learning and Management as well as Rai Schools as assets of the trust. Further, Ram Krishan' onus to disclose relevant details of the prior suit was also considered by the Ld. Single Judge. Aspects such as approval from the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) since 1999 and its bearing on the claim of either Mr. Anil Rai or Mr. Vinay Rai to the right to use the acronym IILM was also brought into picture therein. It was also averred that the close blood relationship of the two adversaries should have been clearly pleaded in the plaint in addition to Ram Krishan and his sons having succeeded at a concerted effort to prevent IILM from receiving fair notice in accordance with requirements of the provisions of Section 148A of the CPC.

The Court emphatically opined that the party who approaches the Court for discretionary relief, should candidly and forthrightly narrate all material facts in the plaint and/or the application for injunction. The Court stating that while this may not be an imperative in their dealings and actions prior or post the filing of the lis, it is an implacable and undilutable necessity in litigation. The Court, therefore, stated that it need not detain itself on the shortcomings or subterfuges adopted by the parties in their actions unless these actions leave no room for debate that a genuine doubt could have been created in the mind of the concerned litigant. The Single Judge relying on several cases had stated that it is beyond cavil that any party guilty of such an act stands disentitled to the grant of any equitable relief.

It was also opined that the feature that ought not to be forgotten was that the dispute between parties revolved around the use of the mark or acronym "IILM". It was found that a holistic reading of the impugned Order disclosed that the learned Single Judge had not learnt nor had he been apprised of the common heritage, lineage and rights of the two adversaries. The present bench opined that had this been done, it inexorably and inevitably would have concluded the non-existence of a prima facie case in favour of the Ram Krishan. The present bench opined that once it is manifestly clear that both parties were using the acronym IILM, neither of them were legally entitled to restrain, restrict or foreclose the other from its use, especially with regard to the fact that the same was being used, jointly and/or severally, with or without prefixes.

The Court also opined that the parties are not entitled to seek an adjudication of the partition of their family in an action for passing off, hence disregarding the need to heed attention to the two Family Settlements being contested. This, however, was said not to detract from the position that IILM was commonly used by all the members of the Rai Family and hence at the present stage no single member is entitled to its exclusive use, until and unless an agreement to this effect has been adhered to by all the necessary parties. On these reasons, a prima facie case was stated to be not existent in favour of the Ram Krishan.

On the question of the Caveat, the present Bench disagreed with IILM that by filing the action in the name of the Trust, Ram Krishan had violated Section 148A of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 in letter or in spirit. The ownership or control of the Trust was stated to be a matter for which adjudication would lie in the final judgment of the relevant suit.

The Court elucidating the role of the Appellate Court in interlocutory matters and the discretion thereof the Court concluded that the precedents prescribed interference in Appeal except where the discretion is exercised in a perverse manner, which no reasonable man would adopt. The impugned Order was stated not to manifest any aberration of pervasive proportions finding no error with the impugned order.

© Lex Orbis 2009

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