Demolition - A Limitation On Architect's Moral Rights

Author:Ms Smriti Yadav and Sourav Dan
Profession:Khaitan & Co

In Raj Rewal v Union of India & Ors. [CS(COMM) 3/2018, with IA Nos. 90 and 92 of 2018], the Hon'ble High Court of Delhi (Court) held that an architect of a building does not have the right to restraint the demolition of the building on the basis of his moral rights.


The plaintiff, Mr Raj Rewal (Rewal), who is an acclaimed architect had designed amongst other structures, the iconic Hall of Nations (Hall) and the Nehru Pavilion housed inside the Hall, which stood in the Pragati Maidan ground. Somewhere in 2016, the Indian Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) proposed to destroy the Hall in order to build an integrated exhibition-cum-convention centre. Rewal filed a writ in the Court for revocation of the decision taken by ITPO. However, the said writ was dismissed. Thereafter, in 2017 Rewal filed another writ before the Court for declaration of Hall as works of national importance and for preservation thereof during the re-development of Pragati Maidan. This writ was also dismissed. Rewal then preferred an appeal. While this appeal was pending hearing, ITPO started demolishing the Hall. Thus, Rewal filed the present suit against the actions of Union of India and ITPO, on the ground that demolition of the Hall is contrary to Section 57 (which deals with author's special rights) of the Copyright Act, 1957 (Act). Rewal prayed for a mandatory injunction against the Union of India and ITPO to compensate him by recreating the work of architecture of the Hall at the same location or at any other equally prominent location in Delhi under his direct supervision. Once again there were no interim reliefs granted to Rewal. In the interim order dated 5 January 2018, amongst other things, the Court observed that defence under Section 57 of the Act is applicable only to those buildings which have been declared to be heritage buildings or buildings of national importance.

Thereafter, the matter was heard at length and the present decision was passed on 28 May 2019. During the hearings, Rewal contended that artistic work includes a work of architecture and therefore he being the author of the same is entitled to various rights as provided under Section 14(c) of the Act including the special rights granted under Section 57 of the Act which entitles him (as an author of the artistic works) right of paternity and integrity commonly known as 'moral rights'. Rewal had relied on the seminal decision of the Delhi High Court in the case of Amar Nath Sehgal...

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