The question whether the Copyright infringement is cognizable offence or not has been discussed in various Courts across the Country. The situation becomes interesting when apex court has answered the question.
The recent decision in the case of Knit Pro International v. State of NCT of Delhi & Anr has ignited a lot of sparks in IP Community as the decision came from the apex Court of the Country. The Supreme Court in the mentioned case held that Copyright Infringement as per Section 63 of the Copyright Act, 1957 is a cognizable and non bailable offence.
Section 63 of Copyright Act reads as- “Offence of infringement of copyright or other rights conferred by this Act— Any person who knowingly infringes or abets the infringement of— (a) the copyright in a work, or (b) any other right conferred by this Act 1 [except the right conferred by section 53A], 2 [shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to three years and with fine which shall not be less than fifty thousand rupees but which may extend to two lakh rupees]: Provided that 1 [where the infringement has not been made for gain in the course of trade or business] the court may, for adequate and special reasons to be mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than six months or a fine of less than fifty thousand rupees.] Explanation — Construction of a building or other structure which infringes or which, if completed, would infringe the copyright in some other work shall not be an offence under this section.”
As per Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, cognizable and bailable offences has been defined under section 2 as– “cognizable offence means an offence for which, and “cognizable case” means a case in which, a police officer may, in accordance with the First Schedule or under any other law for the time being in force, arrest without warrant;”
“Bailable offence means an offence which is shown as bailable in the First Schedule, or which is made bailable by any other law for the time being in force; and “non-bailable offence” means any other offence;”
Now in this case, what concerns the IP specialists is the reasoning of the judgement. The judgement is short and consists of only nine pages where the initial pages read the facts and arguments and last few pages read the decision.
However, the question raised in this case is critical and intriguing i.e. whether Copyright infringement is cognizable and non bailable offence?
The Supreme Court observed that punishment under Section 63 extends up to three years which essentially means it will come under the definition of cognizable offence where the time period has been mentioned three years but not more than 7 years. Thus, the offence would be cognizable as three years has been written in the statute under Section 63.
A lot was expected from the highest court of the country to contribute in this case. However, the judgement being short and without much reasoning and analysis disappointed many of the readers. Additionally, the rule of literal interpretation was exercised too strict in this case than it should have been exercised. The other problem which can be observed here was that in Section 63, the upper limit is three years and lower limit is 6 months. Thus, punishment can be for less than three years and still the offence would be considered as cognizable which was not the intent of legislators. Therefore, elaborate reasoning was expected and required in this judgement. Unfortunately, the case did not provide the much-needed rationale.
In the background, there were several high courts such as High Court of Guwahati, High Court of Andhra Pradesh, High Court of Kerala, High Court of Delhi and High Court of Rajasthan dealing with same question in various cases such as Jitendra Prasad Singh v. State of Assam, Amarnath Vyas v. State of AP, Sreshkumar v. Sub Inspector of Police, State Govt of NCT of Delhi v. Naresh Kumar Garg, and Anurag Sanghi v. State & Ors where some Courts have held the copyright infringement as non cognizable and bailable and some have held it as cognizable and non bailable. Thus, the Apex Court had the chance of providing a rationale and clarity in this case by properly considering all the sections and provisions of law.
This case could have been a historical case if the Supreme Court would have given an elaborate reasoning and analysis in order to enhance the jurisprudence behind this question. However, the discussion was majorly on the time period given under law and no substantial reasoning was given in the judgement.
The views are that of author’s own and not necessarily the views of IPTSE Academy. This blog is a platform for academic discussions and hence authors have been given flexibility to convey their thought process.
Student of Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law,