The Delhi High Court has dismissed Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's plea to delete his name as a defendant from a lawsuit on copyright violation filed by a former JNU scholar-turned-politician, and imposed a cost of Rs 20,000 on him.
Joint Registrar Sanjeev Aggarwal, while passing the order on Wednesday, observed the application was a "sheer abuse of process of the law" as the plaintiff (the scholar) was entitled to choose the defendants against whom he has a "cause of action".
In his lawsuit, Atul Kumar Singh, a former JNU student has alleged that the book published by Patna-based Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI), through its Member Secretary Shaibal Gupta, and endorsed by Mr Kumar, is a plagiarised version of his research work.
The chief minister said in his application he had no direct or indirect association with other defendants and the book -- Special Category Status: A Case for Bihar. He also contended he had only endorsed the book and not authored it.
The Bihar chief minister said "no cause of action was made out for instituting and maintaining the suit", insisting he has been impleaded with a "malafide" intention to cause embarrassment.
The joint registrar turned down Mr Kumar's contention and has noted in his order that two JNU supervisors of the scholar had certified his work as original and that it was released on May 14, 2009, a day before the book was released.
"The facts are cumulatively sufficient to give right to sue to the plaintiff (Singh) against defendant no. 1 (Kumar)." The joint registrar noted that there were sufficient grounds to sue Mr Kumar.
"Therefore, Kumar is both necessary as well as proper party to suit, as in his absence no effective decree can be passed in the present suit. Further, presence of Gupta is necessary in order to enable the court to effectually and completely adjudicate upon and settle all disputes in the suit," the order said.
The order said, "....the present interim application (by Nitish Kumar) is sheer abuse of process of law. Same is dismissed with cost of Rs 20,000."
The counsel for Nitish Kumar said the order will be challenged before an appropriate bench of the High Court.
Besides Mr Kumar, the complainant has claimed damages totalling Rs 25 lakh from the defendants including Gupta, ADRI and its sister concern Centre for Economic Policy and Public Finance.
Mr Singh opposed Mr Kumar's application for deletion of his name as defendant as it had been filed purely on the ground of "privilege of his office".
The joint registrar declined relief to Mr Kumar and fixed the matter for recording of evidence.
After the pleadings involving recording of evidence, framing of issues and cross-examination are completed, the matter will be referred to a judge for final adjudication.
The then chief proctor of JNU in 2006-10 is also party in the matter. His counsel Monika Arora and Kushal Kumar had contended that Mr Singh had attended the varsity for the last time in 2013, therefore the university has no role in the matter as of today.
Mr Singh, a former senior research scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), moved the high court in 2010 alleging that his PhD thesis 'Role of State in Economic Transformation: A case Study of Contemporary Bihar' of 2006 was released on May 15, 2009 in a book format under the title - Special Category Status, A Case for Bihar.
The lawsuit states that it was in 2006 that Mr Singh had enrolled for a PhD at JNU. His home state, Bihar, was the subject of his research, and his thesis was to be titled, 'Role of State in Economic Transformation: A case study of contemporary Bihar.'
It said since the subject of his research involved conducting an economic survey, he got in touch with ADRI.
The petitioner claimed that initially the book was shown to be "authored" by Nitish Kumar, but when Mr Singh complained about it, ADRI brought out a fresh version which was shown to have been "endorsed" by the Bihar chief minister.
The suit, which described Mr Kumar as the "principal actor", said that "despite holding such a responsible post, the defendant in his present capacity has in order to draw public/media attention and to draw political mileage has along with other defendants deliberately, knowingly and malafidely breached the vested copyright of the plaintiff (Singh)".
Mr Singh has alleged that Gupta played the "pivotal role" in illegally transferring his research work to the Bihar chief minister.
Mr Singh, who belongs to Bihar's Saran district, had contested Lok Sabha elections from Chapra constituency in 2004 as an independent.