By Vikrant Rana and Shilpi Sinha
The release of Shahid Kapoor & Mrunal Thakur -starrer Jersey gets a green light as the Hon’ble Bombay High Court refused the stay on release of the film while hearing a copyright infringement suit against its producers and its actor Shahid Kapoor. The Plaintiff, Mr. Rupesh Jaiswal a renowned writer in the Bollywood filed a copyright infringement case alleging that his story was plagiarised by the makers of the movie, and sought for an ad-interim injunction on its the release.
The film already faced a setback as it was set to release on December 31, 2022, but due to raise in Omricorn cases in India the same was postponed. Later, when the film was supposed to hit the theatres on April 14, 2022 it was yet again postponed. As per the speculation it was a tactic move on part of the PR team to avoid any clashes with KGF: Chapter 2. Now, the producers of the film have cleared the air that the delay last week, was not to avoid any clash with KGF: Chapter 2 but because of a plagiarism case, as the team was waiting for a favourable order from the Hon’ble Bombay High Court.
Submissions by the Plaintiff
The Plaintiff claimed that he got his script titled “The Wall” registered with the Screenwriters Association (SWA), formerly known as Film Writers’ Association in the year 2007. He contended that he came across an article dated December 27, 2021 in Bombay Times regarding a Hindi motion film titled “Jersey”, having its brief description. The said film was stated to be remake of a Telugu film, released in April 2019. The plaintiff contended that from the summary of the scripts, he found resemblance with his script ‘The Wall’. According to him, there is a substantial adoption of his script in the Defendants film Jersey.
The Plaintiff in its cease and desist notice dated January 29, 2022 sought entire data of revenue generated by the Telugu film “Jersey” and a sum of either Rs. 5 Crores or 50% of the generated revenue, whichever is more as compensation for the alleged theft of his original and registered literary work and also, to refrain from any kind of promotion of the film in any mode on any platform. In response to the same, the film makers relied on an assignment agreement dated August 07, 2019 for remake of the Telugu film ‘Jersey’ from Defendant No. 2 in favour of Defendant No.3. According to the Plaintiff the alleged agreement has no mentioning as to how the Defendant No.2 obtained the rights of remake of the Telugu film ‘Jersey’.
Submissions made by the Defendant
The Defendant in their defence brought to the attention of the Court, a public notice dated August 09, 2019 in which the Defendant No.3 informed the public that he had applied for remake rights of the Telugu movie and invited third party objections, if any. It was also informed to the Court that prior to this date, the Telugu movie ‘Jersey’ had been released nationally and internationally in theatres on April 19, 2019 thereafter various channels and OTT platforms. In fact, the Hindi dubbed version of the Telugu film ‘Jersey’ was released on YouTube on October 13, 2019 and has over 10 Crore views till now. Thereafter, on November 01, 2019, the announcement of the movie ‘Jersey’ starring Shahid Kapoor was published in Bombay Times with the release date as August 28, 2020 which got postponed due to rise in COVID-19 cases. On November 23, 2022, the cinematic trailer was released on YouTube which garnered over 6.5 Crore views.
The Defendant, thus, submitted that it is preposterous to think that the Plaintiff got to know about the film ‘Jersey’ as late as on December 27, 2021 only. In fact, the Plaintiff waited for over one and a half month after receiving the Defendant’s response denying all the claims of his cease and desist notice. Further, drawing a comparison between the Plaintiff’s script ‘The Wall’ and Defendant’s film ‘Jersey’, the Defendant contended that a film based on cricket an hence often has scenes that looks similar, particularly an ambitious person who ultimately succeeds in his ambition for the Indian Cricket Team or Ranji Trophy Cricket. The Defendant took the defence of gross delay and latches on part of the Plaintiff in seeking the ad-interim injunction relief, in view of the release of the Telugu film ‘Jersey’ in April 2019.
Bombay High Court’s observations and order
The Hon’ble Court, after considering the submissions of both the parties and the facts pointed out by the Defendant No.4, took a view that the Plaintiff is a renowned script writer and has been engaged in the industry since more than two decades, thus, it is inconceivable that the plot of the movie among other things were unknown to him. Further, the Hon’ble Court noted that the Plaintiff had only prayed for an injunction over the Hindi film ‘Jersey’ and not the Telugu film which was already released and exploited. Moreover, the Hon’ble Court refused to look into the similarities between the scripts of the Plaintiff and the Defendant on account of gross delay and laches on part of the Plaintiff in filing the suit. Thus, the ad-interim injunction relief for injunction by the Plaintiff stood rejected.