Microsoft fined for using its “money power”

The Delhi High Court was hearing Microsoft Corporation's plea against four different defendants, alleging violation of copyright. The court ruled that Microsoft had selected a court which was so far away from each of the defendants that it was a “harassment for the defendant(s)” to contest the suit itself

The Delhi High Court has asked Microsoft Corporation to cough up Rs800,000 ($16,000) for opting to fight four copyright violation cases in the Indian capital, even though these cases had originated in other cities.

The order came after the court found that the alleged violations occurred in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chandigarh and Mumbai.

Not only did the court note that Microsoft had offices in these cities, but it also said that the company was using "money power" to "harass" the defendants, who would have to travel to Delhi to fight the cases. Another reason why Microsoft was found to have chosen the Capital to fight the cases was that the Delhi High Court has the jurisdiction to order compensation of up to Rs20 lakh.

"When the Constitution of India provides equality before law, this equality has to be all-pervasive and cannot be allowed to be diluted because of money power or lobbying power," said Justice SN Dhingra in his order. "One cannot be given liberty to choose a court of his liking because of his money power. There should be one definite court where the suit can be filed by everybody and one cannot hire the services of the court of his choice," the Judge said.

The court was hearing Microsoft Corporation's plea against four different defendants, alleging violation of copyright on grounds of suspicion that they were using pirated software.

Microsoft said that it was fighting the cases in New Delhi as it has its office in based in New Delhi. However, the court told Microsoft if it wanted the cases to be heard here, it would have to deposit a sum of Rs2,00,000 per case as a security cost. The amount will be kept with the registrar general of the Delhi High Court till the final disposal of the four cases. It will be given to the defendants if the cases are found to be false.

The court also appointed a local commissioner to probe the allegations. All the expenses of the local commissioner, including his fees, which is Rs25,000 per day, will have to be incurred by the multinational company.

Terming Microsoft's act as “harassment for the opposite party”, the court said, "Given the present interpretation of a section of the Copyright Act, a multinational company having its office within the same district where the case of action arose, defendant resided and where witnesses would be there and (where) it is convenient for the court as well as for the parties to contest the suit, may refuse to file the suit in that State court and choose a distant court faraway from the office of the defendant.

"But on the strength of its money power it has the added advantage of choosing a court of its own liking which is so far away from the defendant that it becomes problematic and a harassment for the defendant to contest the suit itself."

The next hearing is scheduled on 18 January 2010.
 

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