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Amarnath Sehgal v. Union of India

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Citation: 2005 (30) PTC 253 (Del)

Court: Delhi High Court

Bench: Justice P Nandrajog

Facts: Amarnath Sehgal, a well-known sculptor, was commissioned to prepare a mural by the Indian Government for the Vigyan Bhavan. The mural was created over a period of 5 years and was displayed in 1962. The Government decided to remove the murals installed on the walls of Vigyan Bhavan and store the said mural in a storage space of the building due to ongoing renovations and failed to notify or seek authorization from Amarnath. The mural was also slightly damaged due to mishandling and negligence. Amarnath sued the Government over the mistreatment of his mural, claiming it to be a violation of his moral rights.

Issues: Whether the author had rights over the display of his work post-sale under moral rights provisions?

Law Involved: Section 57 of the Copyrights Act, 1957.

Analysis: While holding that moral rights form the soul of an author's work, the Court clarified that these could not be taken away from the author regardless of the work’s sale. The destruction and mutilation of work were held to be an infringement of the author’s moral rights.

The Government argued that once the sale was complete and due consideration had been paid, it had the power to utilize the work as it deemed fit, including its decision to remove the work from public display. However, the Court did not accept this argument and emphasized that the mutilation and part destruction of the mural was prejudicial to the reputation of the author itself, regardless of who is the owner. Therefore, the author was awarded a compensation of Rs.5,00,000/- and ordered that the remains of the mural be delivered to Amarnath for the purpose of restoration and further, sale.

Conclusion: This case formed the basis for how moral rights were to be interpreted. The Court further allowed special reliefs which were not witnessed prior to this case, such as returning the copyrighted work back to the author. This reiterated and set the tone for future interpretations of moral rights and the residuary rights of an author.

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