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Citigroup Inc & Another v/s Citicorp Business & Finance Pvt. Ltd. & Another

    CS (COMM). No. 416 of 2018

    Decided On, 29 August 2018

    At, High Court of Delhi

    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE MANMOHAN

    For the Plaintiffs: Chander M. Lall, Senior Advocate, Karan Bajaj, Nancy Roy, Rupin Bahl, Dhruv Nayar, Advocates. For the Defendants: Ram Ekbal Roy, Dinesh Kumar Patnia, Renu Patnia, Advocates, In Person.



Judgment Text

Oral:

1. Plaintiffs, namely Citigroup Inc. and Citibank, N.A. have filed the present suit for injunction and damages for infringement of registered trade mark, passing off and unfair trade competition against the defendants for using the marks CitiCorp and Citi as essential and prominent part of their corporate names i.e., CitiCorp Business & Finance Pvt. Ltd. (Defendant no.1) and Citi Enterprises & Traders Pvt. Ltd. (Defendant no.2).

2. Learned predecessors of this Court vide orders dated 23rd September, 2013 and 24th November, 2014 had passed comprehensive injunction orders against the defendants.

3. However, the said injunction orders have not been complied with till date.

4. In fact, this Court after rejecting the defences of the defendants in exercise of its powers under Order XXXIX Rule 2A CPC attached the bank accounts of defendant-companies as well as that of Mr. Dinesh Kumar Patnia on account of non-compliance of the aforesaid injunction orders on 9th January, 2018. Learned counsel for the defendant-companies had assured this Court on the said date that the injunction orders shall be complied within a period of one month. This Court had made it clear that in the event the said injunction orders were not complied within the time sought for, it would have no other option but to take Mr. Dinesh Kumar Patnia into custody.

5. On 20th February, 2018, the learned counsel for the defendants had handed over an affidavit undertaking to change the name of the defendant-companies within a period of seven working days. The details of the bank accounts of the defendant-companies as well as its Director Mr. Dinesh Kumar Patnia were handed over.

6. On 14th March, 2018, learned counsel for the defendant-companies had handed over another affidavit dated 13th March, 2018 stating that no business/ trading had been carried out in the defendant-companies pursuant to the order dated 23rd September, 2013 and the website of citicorpbiz.com had been blocked w.e.f. 5th May, 2014. It was further stated that all the bank accounts of the defendant-companies and Mr. Dinesh Kumar Patnia had been suspended.

7. However, on the said date, learned counsel for the plaintiffs had pointed out that the Facebook page of the defendants bearing the name of CITICORP was still active. At that stage, Mr. Dinesh Kumar Patnia had handed over another affidavit dated 14th March, 2018 stating that Facebook page had been deleted and the name of the defendant-companies would be changed within fourteen days.

8. Subsequently on 3rd April, 2018 the matter was adjourned at the request of learned counsel for defendants to 4th April, 2018.

9. On 4th April, 2018, another affidavit of Mr. Dinesh Kumar Patnia was handed over in which it was stated that the Facebook page had been deleted and the said fact could be confirmed within another fifteen days. This Court was also informed that Mr. Dinesh Kumar Patnia had instructed his attorney Sh. Arun Jaiswal & Co., Company Secretary to apply for the change of corporate names of the defendants.

10. Since on 8th May, 2018 none was present for the defendants, this Court had issued bailable warrants against the directors of the defendants Mr. Dinesh Kumar Patnia and Mrs. Renu Patnia.

11. On 17th July, 2018, the Division Bench dismissed FAO (OS) 43/2018 challenging the order dated 24th November, 2014 on the ground that same was barred by limitation.

12. On the same date, another appeal being FAO (OS) 42/2018 challenging the order dated 9th January, 2018 passed by this Court was dismissed holding that the appeal was 'a completely dishonest attempt by the appellants/defendants to avoid compliance with the orders of this Court.' The Division Bench also held that the statements had been made before this Court on 9th January, 2018 'with the malafide intent of evading the direction by the learned Single Judge for the director of appellant to undergo civil imprisonment.'

13. Today, Mr. Dinesh Kumar Patnia and Mrs. Renu Patnia are personally present in pursuance to the bailable warrants issued by this Court on 08th May, 2018. However, no affidavit has been placed on record to show that any steps had been taken by the contemnors/directors of the defendantcompanies to change their corporate names between 4th April, 2018 and today.

14. Mr. Dinesh Kumar Patnia today states that he operates another bank account in the name of D.K. Patnia & Co. in ICICI Bank, Stephen House Branch, Kolkata, being Current Account No. 331505000333. This is surprising as this Court had been informed vide affidavit dated 14th March, 2018 that all the bank accounts of the defendant-companies as well as of Mr. Dinesh Kumar Patnia had been disclosed.

15. Mr. Dinesh Kumar Patnia also states that Registrar of Companies has refused to change the name of CitiCorp Business & Finance Pvt. Ltd. (Defendant no.1) on the ground that it is a Non-Banking Financial Company (for short ‘NBFC’) and prior permission of Reserve Bank of India is required. He, however, asserts that CitiCorp Business and Finance Pvt. Ltd. is not an NBFC. He states that though the Reserve Bank of India has been approached for clarification, yet till date no response had been received from it.

16. Mr. Dinesh Kumar Patnia further states that the Registrar of Companies has refused to change the corporate name of Citi Enterprises & Traders Pvt. Ltd. on similar grounds.

17. However, documents on record do not show that any steps have been taken by either the defendants or contemnors to challenge the decision of Registrar of Companies not to change the corporate names of the defendants.

18. In fact, a perusal of the affidavit dated 3rd April, 2018 reveals that the Registrar of Companies has not accepted Mr. Dinesh Kumar Patnia’s application for change of corporate name of defendant no. 2 i.e. Citi Enterprises & Traders Pvt. Ltd. as the proposed new name resembled the name of another existing company. There is nothing to show that thereafter an alternative name had been suggested by either the contemnors or the defendants.

19. Keeping in view the intransigent attitude of the contemnors and the fact that the injunction orders dated 23rd September, 2013 and 24th November, 2014 have not been complied with till date despite grant of number of opportunities and attachment orders, this Court is left with no other option but to direct compliance of the said orders. Consequently, this Court directs the Registrar of Companies to strike off defendant nos.1 and 2- companies from the Register of Companies. The Current Bank Account No.331505000333 held in the name of D.K. Patnia and Co. with ICICI Bank, Stephen House Branch, Kolkata, is also attached till further orders. The defendants' website www.citicorpbiz.com is directed to be closed down with immediate effect, if not already closed, and the Registrant of defendants' aforesaid website is directed to transfer the domain name citicorpbiz.com to the plaintiffs on the payment of usual fees.

20. Let the present order be complied by the Registrar of Companies within a period of two weeks of receipt of this order. The plaintiffs are directed to forward this order to the Registrar of Companies as well as Registrants of defendants’ website and to ICICI Bank, Stephen House Branch, Kolkata.

21. At this stage, Mr. Dinesh Kumar Patnia states that two defendants own certain immovable properties and if the defendant-companies are struck off the record, he and other shareholders would suffer a financial loss.

22. This Court is of the opinion that the directors of defendant-companies have left it with no other option, but to pass the aforesaid order. This Court is further of the view that the intent of the contemnors/defendants has been to 'mock at the judicial

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system' as the defendants/contemnors have had sufficient opportunities and more than reasonable time to comply with the binding injunction orders. 23. It is settled law that the High Court has power under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 as also under its inherent constitutional power (Article 215) to commit a defendant to jail of its own motion for disobeying injunction issued by it. Consequently, Mr. Dinesh Kumar Patnia and Mrs. Renu Patnia are held guilty of contempt of court. 24. At this stage, learned counsel for the contemnors/defendants prays for some time to argue on sentencing. 25. List on 1st October, 2018. The personal presence of Mrs. Renu Patnia is exempted. However, Mr. Dinesh Kumar Patnia is directed to be personally present in Court on the next date of hearing. Order dasti under the signature of the Court Master.
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