The Delhi high court has held that an architect of a building/structure has no right under Section 57 of the Copyright Act to object to the demolition of his/ her work or to claim any damages for such demolition.
“The special rights of the author of an architectural work cannot be interpreted as being a restriction on the right to property of the owner of the land and building and entitling the author to restrain the owner of the land and building in which the architectural work has been expressed, from better utilizing his land or building by removing the existing building and constructing new building on the land.”, the Court has held.
The judgment was passed by a Single Judge Bench of Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw in a suit by the architect of the iconic Hall of Nations and the Nehru Pavilion at New Delhi’s Pragati Maidan, Raj Rewal.
Rewal had moved the Court seeking an injunction and compensation from the Central Government and Indian Trade Promotion Organization (ITPO) for demolishing the two structures.
Invoking Section 57 of the Copyright Act, Rewal had sought a recreation of the architecture in the Hall of Nations and Nehru Pavilion at the same location or at any other location in Delhi which is equally prominent as the earlier location of the said buildings, under his direct supervision.
Rewal argued that the demolition of his work was prejudicial to his honour and reputation.
Further discussing the issues of town planning, dynamic building bye-laws, environmental laws etc, the Court observed that it not necessary that the building or the structure constructed would always be a true reflection of the drawings or the designs authored by the architect.
“In my view, such entitlement of the owner of the land to raise additional construction cannot be objected to by the architect of the original building on the grounds of such additions, distortion, mutilation, or modification of his work. The only relief which perhaps the architect can have in such cases under Section 57 of the Act is to restrain the owner from claiming the modified work also to be of the architect who had designed the building, as constructed in the original form.”, it added.
It also observed that to hold that demolition is prohibited by Section 57(1)(b) of the Act, would render Section 52(1)(x) otiose.
Thus concluding that an owner of the building has full power to dispose of or destroy it, the court said,
“The requirements of urban planning outweigh the moral rights of an architect..The architect cannot demand the intangibility of work because it would violate the right of ownership and the principles of freedom of commerce. Similarly, the functionality of the building has to necessarily outweigh the interest of the architect on the preservation of integrity. Thus, the owner of the building has full power to dispose it of and to destroy it.
Consequently, the suit was dismissed by the Court.