19th March, 2012
Three Indian brothers, Chandru Ganglani, the Managing Director, Bharat Ganglani and Trishul Ganglani who are directors of a plastic company, Sacvin Nigeria Limited, were this morning sentenced to one month imprisonment without an option of fine by a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria for disobeying the order of the court.
In an affidavit in support of the contempt proceeding filed before the court by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Femi Pinheiro, which was deposed to by a lawyer, Oludayo Ilori, the deponent alleged that Rike Industries Limited who is the plaintiff in the substantive matter is the sole authorised manufacturer in Nigeria of plastic products produced in the design of VIK Singera Basin Mould, VIK road, Neck Mould and VIK Mug Mould.
Sometime in June 2009, the plaintiff discovered that Sacvin Nigeria Company were actively selling in Nigeria plastic products with the design of Sacvin not being the products of the plaintiff but closely resembling and identical in design to the plaintiff’s products.
Thereafter, the plaintiff’s company was experiencing difficulties in sales as a result of the defendants’ company’s infringement.
Consequently, VIK company was incurring serious financial loss on daily basis. The company then instituted a legal action against Sacvin Company.
On 9 July, 2009, the court made an interim order restraining Sacvin Company from any act of engaging in the trade or business of manufacturing and selling or distributing the plastic products with Sacvin logo.
However, Sacvin Company directors, according to a lawyer from the Femi Pinheiro’s chambers, Chukwudi Enebeli, disobeyed court the order with impunity, and engaged in manufacturing, importing, supplying, selling and distributing the plastic products of Sacvin plastic products which are identical to the defendants’ products and thus making the public to believe that the plastic products are the same as the applicant’s product.
The counsel therefore urged the court to commit them to prison for disobeying the order of the court, urging that if not they will persist in disobeying the order of the court.
But the lawyer to the three Indian directors, Dan Olowojaiye, who did not file any counter motion to the contempt proceedings, argued that the contemptnor were not personally served. Aside this, the contempt was carried out by the company and not the directors.
Replying, Enebeli told the court that the order of the court was to paste it at the premises of the court. In addition, the directors are the mindset of the company.
In his ruling, Justice John Tsoho, while upholding Enebeli’s submission, said any act committed by the company, its directors are liable as the mindset of the company.
Justice Tsoho therefore sentenced the three Indians to a month imprisonment for them to purge themselves of the contempt.
Thereafter, Olowojaiye urged the court to give an option of fine. But Enebeli said granting the convicts option of fine will make a mockery of the judicial system.
The judge refused to grant the contemptnors any option of fine.
Thereafter, the substitutive case was adjourned till 20 April, 2012.