Delhi High Court on Tuesday issued notice to Republic TV’s founder, Arnab Goswami, in a case of theft filed by his former employer, Times Now.
Issuing the notice the Justice Manmohan observed, “It is averred in the plaint that defendant nos. 2 and 3 had signed and subscribed to an employment contract with the plaintiff wherein one of the conditions in the contract was the maintenance of confidentiality of employment activities, trade secrets, company information as well as an acknowledgement admitting to the intellectual property rights held, possessed and controlled by the plaintiff of all work in any form whatsoever, manual, digital etc. done and developed by them in course of their employment.”
The judge also highlighted the relevant clauses of the Times Now employment contract on maintaining confidentiality.
The clause 4 of the contract said, “That all intellectual property rights relating to the work done or created by you including all literary, dramatic or artistic work done in the course of your contract with the company solely and exclusively to the company in perpetuity and the company shall have the sole and exclusive right to utilize any such material including text, photographs, illustrations, graphics, film, articles, stories, features, cartoons, books, audio, video, logos, brand names, other items, etc. created, written, made by you. The right in these works that are created, written or made shall continue to vest with the company even after the termination/discontinuation of the contract period.”
While the clause 8 of the employment contract, as highlighted in the complaint by Bennet Coleman &Company Limited, said, “You shall not divulge any secrets connected with the trade, business, process or interests of the Company or part with any information to the detriment of the Company’s interests, nor shall you make any statement to the press/media on any of the issues on behalf of the company or otherwise.”
Goswami had broadcast an audio tape involving the RJD supremo, Lalu Prasad Yadav, and former RJD MP, now in jail, Shahabuddin on 6 May, the day he launched his channel, Republic TV.
On 8 May, Republic TV aired a story around an audio recording of a conversation on phone between Late Sunanda Pushkar, wife of Congress MP, Shashi Tharoor and one of Goswami’s colleagues, Prema Sridevi, now employed with the Republic TV. The conversation between the two had reportedly taken place between 16 and 17 January, 2014.
The Times Now was being represented by a battery of senior lawyers including Rajiv Nayar and Arun Kathpalia.
BCCL lawyers alleged that both Goswami and Sridevi had committed ‘theft of the said intellectual property of TIMES NOW whilst in service of TIMES NOW channel and in breach of contract of employment had converted to their own use for airing on Republic TV the aforesaid intellectual property of plaintiff thereby dishonestly misappropriated and converted to their own use the said intellectual property of TIMES NOW channel.’
The lawyers also played the video clips, broadcast on the Republic TV, in the court.
The judge observed that it was a ‘well settled law’ that an employee needed to maintain confidentiality and utmost fidelity towards his employer.
“Accordingly, the defendants can be restrained from breaching the contract/reproducing/incorporating/ misappropriating or misusing the trade secret or confidential information/data of the plaintiff company and using or telecasting the same as that would amount to infringement of the plaintiff’s rights,” it observed.