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Protection Of Personality Rights: Delhi High Court Order In Amitabh Bachchan v/s Rajat Negi

In the recent order of the Delhi High Court in the matter of Amitabh Bachchan vs. Rajat Nagi & Others [CS(COMM) 819/2022], Hon'ble Justice Mr. Navin Chawla granted "ad-interim ex-parte" injunction in favour of Mr. Amitabh Bachchan protecting the misuse of the plaintiff's personality rights against the named defendants, effectively restraining them from infringing his publicity or personality rights by misusing his name, without his consent.

Meaning Of Personality Rights

Personality rights, also referred as 'right of publicity or image rights, pertain to the rights of individuals (more prevalent amongst public figures or celebrities) over their name, image, reputation, likeness or other aspects of their identity to regulate the use and commercialization of their identity against its unauthorized use. These rights can be envisaged as various attributes inter alia such as usage of pictorial reference, distinct voice, appearance, features, silhouette, expression and mannerisms.

The existence of these rights allow a person to file a claim for a violation of rights if an unauthorized third party attempts to profit commercially from his reputation or such information without his agreement. The earliest manifestation of personality rights was in the form of it in the purview of right to privacy and then it evolved into right to publicity or celebrity rights.

Personality rights were first expressed in the scope of right to privacy by the Supreme Court in the case of R Raja Gopal v State of Tamil Nadu[1], in which the Court stated: "The first aspect of this right must be said to have been violated when, for instance, a person's name or likeness is used without his consent for advertising or non-advertising purposes or for any other purpose."

Although there is no specific legislation addressing this issue, the Indian Judiciary has protected the rights of personalities against wrongful gain by infringers using the personality traits or photographs of celebrities on their products to create an unauthorized presumption that the celebrities are affiliated with their brands.

The landmark Delhi High court judgment Titan Industries Ltd. v. M/s. Ramkumar Jewellers [2] , acknowledged a celebrity's right to publicity. The court elucidated that, "the right to publicity is a celebrity's right to regulate where, when, and how their identity is exploited." In this case, the court safeguarded the personality rights of spouses Mr. Amitabh Bachchan and Mrs.Jaya Bachchan, whose images were being used without their authorization to advertise a competitor's product.

Brief Facts Of The Case
The Plaintiff in this case is a "well-known" actor Mr.Amitabh Bachchan who filed the present suit against 9 defendants including Mr. Rajat Negi . The plaintiff alleged involvement in activities by the defendant's which violated his personality rights or his 'publicity rights as a celebrity' by misappropriation of unauthorized images, domain names, posters of the Plaintiff with an intention to deceive the general public in believing that the Plaintiff is associated with the defendant's propagated goods and services.

The activities inter alia included usage of Plaintiffs photographs and characteristics on websites along with using mobile applications such as Whatsapp forwards to run lottery scams by misleading common people that they are winners in the lottery draw of a widespread game show called "Kaun Banega Crorepati" , which is hosted by the Plaintiff from many years. The defendants also associated Plaintiffs image to sell general knowledge books, merchandize and posters through various e-commerce websites. Lastly the defendants also registered domain names such as "" and "" which clearly uses the plaintiff's name.

Prayers Of Plaintiff
The main prayer was to seek permanent injunction against the various activities of the defendant's violating his 'personality rights' or 'publicity rights as a celebrity', and restrain them from misappropriating it further by prohibiting them from using any and all variations of his voice, image, name (including AB, BigB, Bachchan) or any other attribute.

The plaintiff also prayed to be paid in damages Rs 2,00,00,000 (Two Crores) by the defendants in furtherance of the loss of his goodwill and reputation. Further the plaintiff sought to be granted a 'Jhon Doe' order that shall protect his 'personality rights' from any forthcoming infringement or violation. In addition, he requested an ex parte ad interim injunction prohibiting the defendants from establishing any rights and using the domain names.

Lastly, the Plaintiff requested that DoT (Department of Telecommunication), MeitY (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology), and telecom service providers remove URLs and websites that make unauthorized use of the actor's publicity and personality rights, as well as block access to all phone numbers used by the defendants to distribute messages that were infringing and damaging to his reputation.

Order By The Court
The court was of the opinion that prima-facie case of the Plaintiff was very strong and the balance of convenience was also in his favour owing to his undisputable "well known" personality, goodwill and reputation. The court affirmed that the defendants were in fact infringing the plaintiff's 'publicity rights' by unauthorized use of his attributes exclusively related to his personality to promote their own activities. The court also claimed that this infringement shall result in irreparable harm and injury to his reputation along with bringing him disrepute.

Therefore, the court issued an ad-interim ex-parte order of injunction prohibiting the defendants from violating the plaintiff's "publicity or personality rights by misusing his name 'Amitabh Bachchan/Bachchan/BigB/AB', voice, image, or any other attribute that was uniquely identifiable with him, for any commercial or personal gain."

The court further ordered MietY to guarantee that the appropriate internet service providers remove the URLs and webpages given by the plaintiff, as well as DoT to ensure that the telecom service providers limit access to the phone numbers used by the defendants to distribute the infringing communications.

This order of the Delhi High Court is a positive judicial acknowledgement of an individual's personality rights and a great step towards preventing the commercial exploitation of prominent personalities' identities. While it was crucial that the Delhi High Court issued such an order in rem (against people at large).

The implementation of such an interim order rather than a "John Doe" will present its own difficulties, making it the plaintiff's responsibility to keep an eye out for delinquent parties. It may be possible for the plaintiff to not only join infringing parties to the current case, but also to file new proceedings under the Trademarks Act of 1999 and the Copyright Act of 1957.

Infringement of celebrity and famous personality rights has become a common practice, and companies and individuals frequently invade such rights of celebrities with the intent of exploiting the goodwill associated with such famous personalities for commercial gain or for any other malicious purpose without the consent of the concerned celebrity.

Their accumulated goodwill, brand value, and reputation are the consequence of their hard work. Therefore, the law punishes the unlawful and illegal use and exploitation of personality rights by anybody other than the celebrity themselves. The verdicts of Indian courts vary due to a lack of clarity on the matter, and the absence of a suitable legislative guideline and controlling legislation exacerbates the problem.

Therefore, the Indian legislative should explore the implementation of legislation controlling celebrity-related rights and giving proper protection to celebrity rights, so preventing financial and moral exploitation and protecting the underlying interests.

  • Amitabh Bachchan v/s Rajat Negi [CS(COMM) 819/2022] , accessed from
  1. 1995 AIR 264, para 9
  2. 2012 SCC OnLine Del 2382

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