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HC reprieve for Mafatlals

The Bombay High Court recently quashed criminal proceedings against 85-year-old industrialist Arvind Mafatlal and his son Hrishikesh (54), who heads National Organic Chemicals Industries.

mumbai Updated: May 22, 2010 01:44 IST
HT Correspondent

The Bombay High Court recently quashed criminal proceedings against 85-year-old industrialist Arvind Mafatlal and his son Hrishikesh (54), who heads National Organic Chemicals Industries.

The prosecution was initiated by a city resident, Dr Palakavayalli Thomas, who owns a private firm, Enzymes Pharmaceuticals and Industrial Chemicals (EPIC). Thomas had reportedly researched and developed two agro-chemicals under the brand names Weedof and Addon, which they manufactured at their plant at Patalganga in Raigad district.

In 1986, the two companies joined hands, with NOCIL sourcing the two products from EPIC, then marketing and distributing them. NOCIL, however, later started manufacturing and distributing the two products under deceptive names.

Thomas first approached a magistrate court in 2006, accusing NOCIL of a range of offences including cheating, saying it had manufactured and distributed products, which under the agreement it was bound to source only from EPIC.

In June 2006, the magistrate rejected the complaint, saying no offence was made out. Thomas approached the sessions court, which sent the matter back saying offences under some sections could be made out against some of the accused.

However, on April 27, 2007, the magistrate issued process against all 16 accused - Arvind and Hrishikesh Mafatlal, 13 directors of NOCIL and Dow Chemicals, also a Mafatlal group company, and a law officer.

The matter again went to the sessions court, which sent it back for fresh consideration in accordance with its earlier order, but on August 21, 2008, the magistrate again issued process against all 16 accused.

The Mafatlals challenged this in the high court, contending that the matter could, at most, be a civil dispute of trademark violation, not a criminal offence.

A single judge bench of Justice B R Gavai accepted their contention and quashed the prosecution saying: “The complaint is nothing but an abuse of the process of law”. He also noted that: “The allegations in the complaint taken at face value did not make out a case for the offences [that the defendants are] charged with.”

The high court noted that nothing was placed on record in the complaint to show that the brands were patented or registered by the complainant.