Filing a suit in Delhi could get 10 times more expensive.
The Indian Parliament on August 6th 2015 passed the Delhi High Court (Amendment) Act, 2015 which was published on August 10, 2015. The Act is rather short and contains two changes – a) that the pecuniary jurisdiction of the Delhi High Court would be raised from 20 Lakhs (approx. USD 30,000) to 2 crores (approx. USD 300,000) and b) that cases which were already pending with the Delhi High Court may be sent down to the subordinate Courts. This tenfold increase in the pecuniary jurisdiction was brought about to reduce the work load of the Delhi High Court and given the rising costs, help those aggrieved to reach out to their nearest District Court.
When you have a legal dispute, you have to file it in the appropriate Court which can be decided on the statute (law) that covers the dispute and the value of the suit (either by way of the disputed amount or the damages claimed). Prior to the Act, any dispute for which the value claimed was over 20 lakhs could be filed with the Delhi High Court directly and not the District Courts. However now only if the estimated value of damages exceeds 2 crore rupees will it be handled directly by the High Court. There are 24 High Courts in India and only four of them (Bombay, Delhi, Madras and Calcutta) have original civil jurisdictions. So this means the remaining 20 can be approached only when a decision is being appealed (except in the cases of writs and specific cases).
The Chartered Courts
While this increase affects the Delhi High Court, the other chartered Courts have slightly different jurisdictions
The Bombay High Court’s pecuniary jurisdiction is 1 crore (except in cases of Admiralty Suits, Testamentary Suits, Parsi Suits and Intellectual Property Rights Suits). This change came in 2012
The Calcutta High Court’s pecuniary jurisdiction is 1 crore. However the High Court and the City Civil Courts have concurrent jurisdiction for disputes between 10 lakh to 1 crore. This change came in 2013
The Madras High Court pecuniary is jurisdiction is 25 lakhs. This change came in 2010.
What does this mean for litigants?
In short this amendment means that unless the value of the civil suit is 2 crores, the Delhi High Court would not be handling it.
The Court fee will be much higher. Without getting into the specifics the court fee will be approximately 1% of the valuation of the suit, so for 2 crores the court fee will be approximately 2 lakhs (USD 3000)
Existing cases valued between 20 lakhs and 2 crores may now be transferred to the subordinate Courts. There are approximately 12000 cases in this range.
The IP Perspective
So how does this amendment affect the rights of IP holders?
The Delhi High Court has been the go to Court for all intellectual property infringement cases. The Delhi High Court settles IP disputes and grants injunctions almost every other week as result of which the Judges are quite aware of the specific issues involved in dealing with intellectual property matters. With the amendment though chances are the cases will now come before the Judges of the District Courts who may not have had as much IP experience.
So in the bid to keep the jurisdiction with the Delhi High Court and the more IP experienced Judges, IP owners just may have to start paying 10 times the Court fee.
The Asian Patent Attorney’s Association (APAA) raised this factor when the bill was proposed and requested that an exception be made in cases of technical disputes like patent related matters (as with the Bombay High Court for IP matter) where it was essential for the High Court Judges to handle them at the existing pecuniary jurisdiction. However there doesn’t appear to be that exception.
I guess we’ll have to wait and watch to see what happens and if plaintiffs increase the valuation to maintain it with the High Court or approach the other Chartered Courts for relief in IP matters.