The Bihar and Mayer (H.K) Ltd v. Owners

The
doctrine of ‘unclean hands’, has been relied upon by the Delhi High Court in
deciding the appealed case , Aura Synergy India Pvt Ltd & Ors. V. M/S New
Age False Ceiling Co. Pvt Ltd & Ors. In this case, the appellant /plaintiff,
against the orders of the Single Bench Judge of this Court, appealed to
division bench, wherein the plaintiff claimed that the defendants are passing
off their product by using the same Trade Mark. The learned Single Judge
granted interim injunction initially and later, when respondents filed for
vacation of the ex parte interim injunction, it was allowed on the ground that
plaintiffs had suppressed or concealed material facts. Thus the appeal was
preferred by the appellants/plaintiff. The issue involved in the appeal was
whether there is suppression of the ‘material facts’ by the plaintiff. The
plaintiff relying upon the case SJS Business Enterprise (P) Ltd v. State Bank
of Bihar and Mayer (H.K) Ltd v. Owners & Operates Vessel M.V. Fortune Express
& Ors., contended that the fact that the agreement and earlier relationship
between the appellants and respondents were not mentioned, was not a material
one and therefore, this could not have been regarded as a care of suppression
or concealment.

The
Division Bench of Delhi High Court after considering entire documents and
materials, affirmed the decision of the Single Bench Judge and stated that the
suppression or non-disclosure of the agreement and earlier relationship between
the appellants as agents of the respondents in respect of the product, would
amount to ‘material fact’ and would impinge on the merits of the case and thus
the appeal was dismissed.

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To
flow as per the letter of law would intermittently tend to deny justice due to
the loopholes of laws and its non-adaptive nature to various circumstances of
the matter in hand. Thus evolved, a new concept of equity, wherein judges apply
the letters of law in arriving at their own decisions as per the essence of the
codified law, by focussing more on equity. The concept evolved from English
Court which was based upon the principles of laws developed in precedent cases.

Curbing
unlawful use of a Trade Mark is the primary objective behind a Trademark
infringement suit, wherein the aggrieved party claim for equitable reliefs
available. It can be sought by any party, aggrieved by the infringement of
their trademark, but he should come with ‘clean hands’ for the Court to grant
the same. Any matter of dishonesty in the matter of seeking the relief would
result in the denial of the same. Equity, which means the power to do justice
based on the discretion of the Court on the basis of the circumstances of the
matter, and equitable reliefs are orders by the Courts directing any person to
do or refrain from doing anything, in order to provide relief to a party in an
action brought by him against a person. Hence, while seeking for such a relief,
the person seeking should specify all the facts related to the case as a whole
and any wilful concealment from his part would result in the denial. It has
been emphasised in the case, Warner Bros Entertainment Inc.& Anr. V.
Harinder Kohli & Ors, this Court reiterated that, ‘it is a cardinal principle
of law that a person who seeks the equitable relief of injunction must come
with clean hands.’ Reiterating the aforesaid principle by the same Court in its
case Paramount Surgined Ltd v. Paramount Bed India Pvt Ltd & Ors, the Court
denied the equitable relief upon its finding that the plaintiff has suppressed
material facts.

In
the decision of Arunima Barbah v. UOI & Ors, Supreme Court discussed how
far and to what extent suppression of fact by way of non-disclosure would
affect a person’s right of access to justice. On deriving at the decision of
the Apex Court, by referring to Moody v. Cox & Meyers v. Casey which stated
that ‘the absence of clean hands is of no account unless the disparity, the
dirt in question on the hand, has an immediate and necessary relation to the
equity sued for’. It has also been stated in the aforesaid cases that, in
situation of failure to disclose material facts, it should be such that the
performance of his obligation would bring about substantial hardship or
unfairness that outweighs matters trending in favour of specific performance.
Thus, there should be suppression of ‘material facts’ for the denial of the
equitable relief. The Apex Court in K.D. Sharma v. Steel Authorities of India
Ltd, observed that, concealment of material facts is not advocacy. It is
jugglery, manipulation, manoeuvring or misrepresentation, which has no place in
equitable and prerogative jurisdiction.

In
Prestige Lights Ltd v. SBI, the Apex Court held that, if the applicant does not
disclose full facts or supress relevant materials, it may dismiss the action
without adjudicating the matter. The rule has been evolved in larger public
interest to deter unscrupulous litigants from abusing the process of Court by
deceiving it. What amounts to material facts is the question which needs to be
answered. Its meaning depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. A
fact which is material in one litigation may not be material in another.
Black’s law dictionary mentions that ‘material fact’ is a fact that is
significant or essential to the issue or matter at hand. Supreme Court in
Arunima Barnah v. UOI & Ors, considered the meaning of material fact, it
would mean ‘material for the purpose of determination of the Lis, the logical
corollary whereof would be that whether the same was material for grant or
denial of the relief. If the fact suppressed is not material for determination
of the Lis between the parties, the Court may not refuse to exercise its discretionary
jurisdiction.

Thus,
a party is entitled to legal or equitable claims or both in an infringement
suit for Trademarks, and that for a person to possess equitable relief, it is a
prerequisite that, he should be with clean hands and anything contrary to it
would result in denial of the relief sought in the Trademark infringement suit,
in order to prevent abuse of process of law.