The Supreme Court on Friday relaxed the bail condition of the Kerala High Court, which stated that the song “Varaharoopam” should not be shown in the Kannada film “Kantara” until the final order in the copyright infringement case.
The bench modified one of the bail conditions of the high court and directed that Kantara’s producer Vijay Kirgandur and director Rishab Shetty be released on bail immediately if arrested.
“Pending further orders condition 12(1) will stand modified — petitioner shall appear before the investigating officer on 12 and 13 February 2023. In the event that the petitioner is arrested, he shall be released on bail in terms of the order passed by the HC. “There shall be a stay on the operation of condition 5 ( to remove the song),” the court said while passing the order.
The bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice P.S. Narasimha, and Justice J. B. Pardiwala issued the order after hearing the plea filed by the film’s director and producer. Although the petition was not listed on February 10, the CJI considered it after an urgent mention was brought to his attention.
Appearing for the duo, Senior Advocate Ranjit Kumar told the bench that the film has been running for several months now and that the high court could not have imposed a condition not to exhibit it without the song, the music of which is in dispute, as a condition for anticipatory bail.
He also submitted that the direction that they should appear before the investigating officer on February 12 and 13 for interrogation is a matter of serious prejudice in the sense that they can be arrested. Kumar pointed out that the suits filed alleging copyright infringement had already been returned on the ground of lack of jurisdiction.
The bench issued a notice to the Kerala government and sought its response within two weeks. A notice has also been issued to the band Thaikkudam Bridge for claiming ownership of music.
The CJI also criticised the High Court for imposing such a condition and said that an anticipatory bail application cannot be used to resolve copyright issues. “The High Court felt very strongly that you people have plagiarized somebody’s song. But the point is, you can’t impose these conditions for granting anticipatory bail. “You can’t decide a copyright suit in an anticipatory bail,” CJI said after passing the order.
The court also said the actor and producer wouldn’t be arrested when they show up for questioning on February 12 and 13 in connection with the copyright infringement probe over the song. At the same time, the Supreme Court allowed the investigating officers to continue the investigation.
The film’s actor Rishabh Shetty and director Vijay Kirgandur had been granted anticipatory bail in the case over alleged copyright infringement by the Kerala High Court.
The ‘Kantara’ Plagiarism Row
Thaikudam Bridge, a well-known band from Kerala, had filed a lawsuit against Kantara producers, accusing them of plagiarizing their song. The band claimed that Varaha Roopam by Kantara was a copy of Navarasam. The creators of Kantara were subsequently told by a Kerala court not to perform Varaha Roopam without Thaikkudam Bridge’s consent.
The court ordered the creators to cease playing the song in theaters and on streaming services after the musical group sued the filmmakers. Later, due to a lack of jurisdiction, the Kozhikode District Court in Kerala removed the ban on Varaha Roopam.
After the ban was lifted, the director, Rishabh Shetty, who was overjoyed, posted on Twitter about the improvements he planned to make to the song. Rishab Shetty is the writer, director, and actor of the action thriller Kantara. The movie made over Rs 400 crore at the global box office and was overwhelmingly well-received by both reviewers and viewers.