Court Not Having Jurisdiction Must Return Plaint To Be Filed In Appropriate Court, Decree Passed Not Binding On Parties- Delhi HC
The Delhi High Court has held that the plaint must be returned to be filed in a Court of an appropriate jurisdiction once it is found that the Court has no territorial jurisdiction to adjudicate the suit. Also, such a decree passed by the Court having no jurisdiction shall not be binding upon the parties to the suit.
The Bench of Justice Navin Chawla while dealing with a plea challenging the judgment and order passed by the Trial Court related to the trademark infringement matter ruled –
"In view of the above, the finding of the learned Trial Court on issue no.1 as regard the lack of territorial jurisdiction of the court to adjudicate the suit, is upheld. Consequently, the plaint is returned to the plaintiff in the suit to be filed before a Court of competent jurisdiction. The finding of the learned Trial Court on the other issues is set aside and shall not be binding on the parties, in view of the lack of territorial jurisdiction of the Court."
Advocate Jagdish Sagar appeared on behalf of the appellants whereas, Advocate S.K. Bansal appeared for the respondent.
Brief Facts of the case –
The respondent/ plaintiff in the suit alleged that they were engaged in the business of manufacturing, marketing and sales of sweets, namkeens, confectionary, fast food, chutney, and other allied and related goods since the year 1890 in Agra, Uttar Pradesh under the trademark 'M/s. HARI RAM & SONS'. In the year 1964, the respondent adopted the trademarks 'HR LOGO' and 'HARI RAM & SONS' and is also the registered proprietor of the latter mark. The appellants/ defendants in the suit adopted the same and engaged in the same business as that of the respondent.
The Trial Court in its order and judgment held that it lacked the lacked territorial jurisdiction to try the suit. However, since evidence had already been led in the suit, the judgment was pronounced on other issues as well. The suit was decreed in favour of the plaintiff in the suit as the judgment was in favour of the plaintiff on other issues as well. The defendants in the suit/ appellants being aggrieved by such a judgment contended that the decree passed by the Trial Court is nullity. On the other hand, the plaintiff in the suit/ respondent being aggrieved challenged the judgment of the Trial Court that lacked territorial jurisdiction.
Both the appeals, therefore, arose from the same judgment and raised the same issue.
The High Court noted that "… the primary contention of the plaintiff in the suit is that while the plaintiff in the suit, in paragraph 25 of the plaint reproduced hereinabove, had inter-alia contended that the defendants in the suit are soliciting business under the impugned trade mark within the territorial limits of Delhi, the same has not been specifically denied by the defendants in the suit in their written statement. I find the said submission untenable. … defendants in the suit have explicitly stated that their business activities are confined exclusively to the State of Uttar Pradesh, and more particularly to the city of Prayagraj, and have no business activities in Delhi of any kind 'including sale for commercial purpose'. The defendants in the suit have denied that they are marketing and selling their goods in Delhi."
The Court in this context further noted –
"The contentions of the plaintiff in the suit that the defendants in the suit, themselves having contended that they have been advertising their product in print as also electronic media, the learned Trial Court would have the territorial jurisdiction to entertain the suit, also cannot also be accepted."
It was observed by the Court that "Merely because in the course of their business, the defendants in the suit have advertised their products in the print as also electronic media, which may have a spill over circulation in Delhi (which also has not been proved by the plaintiff in the present case), it cannot be said that the learned Trial Court at Delhi would gain jurisdiction to entertain the suit of trade mark infringement and passing off against the defendants in the suit."
The Court also observed –
"Once the parties have led their evidence and it is the specific case on behalf of the defendants in the suit that the defendants in the suit neither carry out nor intend to carry out any business in Delhi, the mere filing of such an application before the Registrar of Trade Marks would not vest jurisdiction in the learned Trial Court to entertain the suit."
Hence, the Court observed that "It is trite law that the plaint can be returned 'at any stage of the suit‟. Therefore, on the recording of the evidence, if the Court finds that in the given facts, the Court has no territorial jurisdiction, it will return the plaint to be presented before the Court in which the suit should have been instituted. … It is also settled law that once the Court finds that it has no territorial jurisdiction to entertain or adjudicate the suit, it must return the plaint to be filed in a Court of appropriate jurisdiction."
Accordingly, the High Court set aside the decree passed by the Trial Court and disposed of the cross-appeals and pending applications.
Cause Title – Vivek Purwar and Anr. v. Hari Ram and Sons