In the recent order of the Delhi High Court in the matter of Amitabh
Bachchan vs. Rajat Nagi & Others
[CS(COMM) 819/2022], Hon'ble Justice Mr.
Navin Chawla granted "ad-interim ex-parte
" injunction in favour of Mr. Amitabh
Bachchan protecting the misuse of the plaintiff's personality rights against the
named defendants, effectively restraining them from infringing his publicity or
personality rights by misusing his name, without his consent.
Meaning Of Personality Rights
Personality rights, also referred as 'right of publicity or image rights,
pertain to the rights of individuals (more prevalent amongst public figures or
celebrities) over their name, image, reputation, likeness or other aspects of
their identity to regulate the use and commercialization of their identity
against its unauthorized use. These rights can be envisaged as various
attributes inter alia such as usage of pictorial reference, distinct voice,
appearance, features, silhouette, expression and mannerisms.
The existence of these rights allow a person to file a claim for a violation of
rights if an unauthorized third party attempts to profit commercially from his
reputation or such information without his agreement. The earliest manifestation
of personality rights was in the form of it in the purview of right to privacy
and then it evolved into right to publicity or celebrity rights.
Personality rights were first expressed in the scope of right to privacy by the
Supreme Court in the case of R Raja Gopal v State of Tamil Nadu, in which the
Court stated: "The first aspect of this right must be said to have been violated
when, for instance, a person's name or likeness is used without his consent for
advertising or non-advertising purposes or for any other purpose."
Although there is no specific legislation addressing this issue, the Indian
Judiciary has protected the rights of personalities against wrongful gain by
infringers using the personality traits or photographs of celebrities on their
products to create an unauthorized presumption that the celebrities are
affiliated with their brands.
The landmark Delhi High court judgment Titan Industries Ltd. v. M/s. Ramkumar
 , acknowledged a celebrity's right to publicity. The court
elucidated that, "the right to publicity is a celebrity's right to regulate
where, when, and how their identity is exploited." In this case, the court
safeguarded the personality rights of spouses Mr. Amitabh Bachchan and Mrs.Jaya
Bachchan, whose images were being used without their authorization to advertise
a competitor's product.
Brief Facts Of The Case
The Plaintiff in this case is a "well-known" actor Mr.Amitabh Bachchan who
filed the present suit against 9 defendants including Mr. Rajat Negi . The
plaintiff alleged involvement in activities by the defendant's which violated
his personality rights or his 'publicity rights as a celebrity' by
misappropriation of unauthorized images, domain names, posters of the Plaintiff
with an intention to deceive the general public in believing that the Plaintiff
is associated with the defendant's propagated goods and services.
The activities inter alia included usage of Plaintiffs photographs and
characteristics on websites along with using mobile applications such as
Whatsapp forwards to run lottery scams by misleading common people that they are
winners in the lottery draw of a widespread game show called "Kaun Banega
Crorepati" , which is hosted by the Plaintiff from many years. The defendants
also associated Plaintiffs image to sell general knowledge books, merchandize
and posters through various e-commerce websites. Lastly the defendants also
registered domain names such as "www.amitabhbachchan.com" and
"www.amitabhbachchan.in" which clearly uses the plaintiff's name.
Prayers Of Plaintiff
The main prayer was to seek permanent injunction against the various activities
of the defendant's violating his 'personality rights' or 'publicity rights as a
celebrity', and restrain them from misappropriating it further by prohibiting
them from using any and all variations of his voice, image, name (including AB,
BigB, Bachchan) or any other attribute.
The plaintiff also prayed to be paid in damages Rs 2,00,00,000 (Two Crores) by
the defendants in furtherance of the loss of his goodwill and reputation.
Further the plaintiff sought to be granted a 'Jhon Doe' order that shall protect
his 'personality rights' from any forthcoming infringement or violation. In
addition, he requested an ex parte ad interim injunction prohibiting the
defendants from establishing any rights and using the domain names.
Lastly, the Plaintiff requested that DoT (Department of Telecommunication),
MeitY (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology), and telecom service
providers remove URLs and websites that make unauthorized use of the actor's
publicity and personality rights, as well as block access to all phone numbers
used by the defendants to distribute messages that were infringing and damaging
to his reputation.
Order By The Court
The court was of the opinion that prima-facie case of the Plaintiff was very
strong and the balance of convenience was also in his favour owing to his
undisputable "well known" personality, goodwill and reputation. The court
affirmed that the defendants were in fact infringing the plaintiff's 'publicity
rights' by unauthorized use of his attributes exclusively related to his
personality to promote their own activities. The court also claimed that this
infringement shall result in irreparable harm and injury to his reputation along
with bringing him disrepute.
Therefore, the court issued an ad-interim ex-parte order of injunction
prohibiting the defendants from violating the plaintiff's "publicity or
personality rights by misusing his name 'Amitabh Bachchan/Bachchan/BigB/AB',
voice, image, or any other attribute that was uniquely identifiable with him,
for any commercial or personal gain."
The court further ordered MietY to guarantee that the appropriate internet
service providers remove the URLs and webpages given by the plaintiff, as well
as DoT to ensure that the telecom service providers limit access to the phone
numbers used by the defendants to distribute the infringing communications.
This order of the Delhi High Court is a positive judicial acknowledgement of an
individual's personality rights and a great step towards preventing the
commercial exploitation of prominent personalities' identities. While it was
crucial that the Delhi High Court issued such an order in rem (against people at
The implementation of such an interim order rather than a "John Doe"
will present its own difficulties, making it the plaintiff's responsibility to
keep an eye out for delinquent parties. It may be possible for the plaintiff to
not only join infringing parties to the current case, but also to file new
proceedings under the Trademarks Act of 1999 and the Copyright Act of 1957.
Infringement of celebrity and famous personality rights has become a common
practice, and companies and individuals frequently invade such rights of
celebrities with the intent of exploiting the goodwill associated with such
famous personalities for commercial gain or for any other malicious purpose
without the consent of the concerned celebrity.
Their accumulated goodwill, brand value, and reputation are the consequence of
their hard work. Therefore, the law punishes the unlawful and illegal use and
exploitation of personality rights by anybody other than the celebrity
themselves. The verdicts of Indian courts vary due to a lack of clarity on the
matter, and the absence of a suitable legislative guideline and controlling
legislation exacerbates the problem.
Therefore, the Indian legislative should explore the implementation of
legislation controlling celebrity-related rights and giving proper protection to
celebrity rights, so preventing financial and moral exploitation and protecting
the underlying interests.
- Amitabh Bachchan v/s Rajat Negi [CS(COMM) 819/2022] , accessed from
- 1995 AIR 264, para 9
- 2012 SCC OnLine Del 2382
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