Recent Jurisprudence on Personality Rights in India

Author: Adv. Kavita Srivastav Sharan & Adv. Mittal Nor Patel

Indian courts have progressively recognized and protected personality rights, even in the absence of explicit statutory provisions. These rights are derived from Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantee the freedom of speech and expression and the right to live with dignity. Additionally, they are inferred from the Trademark Act, 1999, and the Copyright Act, 1957. Before the landmark Supreme Court judgment in Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India[1], personality rights were primarily enforced under the common law tort of “passing off.” The 2017 judgment elevated these rights to constitutional status. Jackie Shroff’s Legal Battle for Publicity Rights.

Bombay High Court’s Ruling in Favor of Karan Johar[2]

In Karan Johar v. Indian Pride Advisory Pvt Ltd. (Com IPR Suit (L) No. 17863 of 2024), the Bombay High Court recognized the infringement of Johar’s personality rights by the Defendants, who had used his name in the film title “Shadi Ke Director Karan Aur Johar” without consent. The court, citing precedents like Anil Kapoor v. Simply Life India & Ors[3], Arun Jaitley v. Network Solutions Private Ltd. & Ors[4] and Titan Industries Ltd. v. M/s. Ramkumar Jewellers[5], granted ad-interim relief, prohibiting the unauthorized use of Johar’s name, thereby protecting his personality rights and right to privacy.

Rajat Sharma’s Injunction against Unauthorized Use[6]

In another significant case, the Delhi High Court granted an ad-interim injunction to Rajat Sharma, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of India TV, against Ravindra Kumar Choudhary. The court prohibited Choudhary, a political satirist, from using Sharma’s photograph, video, name, or similar trademarks, such as “Jhandiya TV” and “Baap ki Adalat,” without authorization, reinforcing the protection of personality rights against commercial exploitation.

Jackie Shroff Defends His Publicity Rights against Unauthorized Use[7]

Renowned actor Jackie Shroff recently sought judicial intervention to protect his publicity and personality rights from unauthorized exploitation. His lawsuit targeted multiple defendants for the misuse of his name and trademarks in various forms, including the sale of merchandise, derogatory videos, and the operation of a restaurant named “Bhidu Shawarma & Restaurant.” The Delhi High Court, referencing D.M. Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. v. Baby Gift House[8], issued an injunction prohibiting the defendants from using Shroff’s name, image, voice, or sobriquets for commercial purposes without consent, underscoring the importance of safeguarding celebrity rights.

In conclusion, while statutory reforms may be forthcoming, the judiciary’s proactive stance has laid a foundation for the continued recognition and enforcement of personality rights in India’s legal landscape.

[1] 2017 SCC OnLine SC 996.

[2] Com IPR Suit (L) No. 17863 of 2024 (Bombay High Court)

[3] 2023 SCC OnLine Del 6914

[4] CS (O.S.) 893 of 2002 (Del.)  (2011) 181 DLT 716)

[5] (2012) 50 PTC Del 486

[6] 2024 SCC OnLine Del 4380

[7] Jaikishan Kakubhai Saraf v. Peppy Store, 2024 SCC OnLine Del 3664

[8] (2010) SCC online Del 4790

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