Whether an Architect, as the creator and legally the ‘author’ of a structure has a right vested in him to object to such modification or demolition of their work by the owner of the building?

Background: The dispute centres around section 57 of the Copyright Act, 1957 under which the plaintiff has filed for a mandatory injunction to reinstate the building according to the original plans. Section 57 of the Copyright Act, 1957 provides the author with special rights called ‘moral rights’ which subsists with the author of the work over and above economic rights of others. Facts: The present case talks about one Mr. Raj Rewal who designed and Mr. Mahendra Raj who was the structural designer of the Hall of Nations building. The said building was hailed as an icon of modernist Indian architecture and was erected in the Pragati Maidan grounds in New Delhi. The ITPO in 2016, made a proposal to demolish the Hall of Nations complex in order to build an ‘Integrated Exhibition cum Convention Centre’. Despite of several attempts made by the Plaintiff to protect the building from demolition it resulted in what ITPO desired. Post demolition of the building the Plaintiff instituted a suit against the actions of ITPO by claiming that the actions of demolition had derogated the Plaintiff’s special rights under Section 57. Judgement: Rejecting the plaintiff’s claims the Court framed the issue as a conflict of two different rights, namely – the architect’s rights under Section 57, and the landowner’s rights to practice acts pertaining to their property. The court observed that the plaintiff in this case cannot be allowed to prevent the demolition of the building by the defendant as it would in turn amount to restriction of the defendant’s right to practice their control over their property and land which is provided to them under Article 300A which is a constitutional right which prevails over the statutory rights of the plaintiff which they claim to exist under Section 57 of Copyright Act, 1957. The court further states that the author’s right under Section 57 to prohibit ‘distortion, mutilation or modification’ of his work does not permit an author to prevent complete destruction of their work since “that what cannot be viewed, seen, heard or felt, cannot be imperfect and cannot affect the honour or reputation of the author.” Therefore, the extent to which the right vested in the architect extents to is to prevent the building owner to refrain from making changes in the design made by the architect and passing it off as if the design was made by the architect. The Court in furtherance to that also relied upon Section 52(1)(x) which acts as an exception to copyright of the architect. The court reasoned that the ‘reconstruction’ envisaged under Section 52(1)(x) could only take place if the building had already been demolished. Noting that the Copyright Act must be read harmoniously, the court therefore stated that Section 57 could not reasonably contemplate the right to object to the demolition of a building. In conclusion the court dismissed the suit due to lack of cause of action against the demolition of the Hall of Nations.

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