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Najma Heptulla v. Orient Longman Ltd, AIR 1989 Del 63


  • Whether Maulana Azad was the sole author of the book ‘India Wins Freedom’?


  • According to the Copyright Act, 1957, Joint Authorship is “when more than one author creates work with the intention of their contributions being merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole”.
  • In the event of Joint Authorship, the authors will be regarded as co-owners of the copyright that subsists in that work.
  • The consent of the dead heir’s legal representatives is required when there are joint authors and one of them is deceased.


  • The dispute revolves around the autobiography book of Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, titled “India Wins Freedom,” written by Professor Humayun Kabir.
  • Maulana Azad and Professor Kabir worked closely to create this literary work where Maulana would recite his life stories and provide notes to the Professor, who in turn documented the same in written format.
  • When Azad passed away in 1958 before the book’s publication, Professor Kabir requested the National Archive Library to be the trustee of the book and an additional 30 pages.
  • He entered into an agreement with Oriental Longman Ltd. for the book’s publication, excluding the 30 pages and the legal heirs of Azad, Fatima Begum, and Noorudin Khan consented to the arrangement.
  • In a property dispute, it was clarified by the Court that it was Noorudin who was the sole owner of all rights over Maulana’s writings, whether published or unpublished.
  • Noordin consented when Oriental Longman intended to publish the additional 30 pages in 1988.Noordin consented when Oriental Longman intended to publish the additional 30 pages in 1988.
  • The plaintiff, Fatima Begum’s granddaughter, filed a legal notice stating that Azad’s legal heirs have the right over her writings.


  • The Delhi High Court ruled that Prof. Kabir and Maulana are co-authors because Prof. Kabir made notes based on the fact that Maulana only spoke in Urdu, which was ultimately turned into a book. As a result, they both contributed to writing the book.
  • The Court placed more emphasis on the value of the author’s intentions than on the technical elements of authorship.
  • The evidence proved that the legal heirs, including Fatima Begum, had given their consent to the arrangement in a written agreement. The court decided that if one or more of the joint authors are deceased, the consent of the legal heirs is required.
  • According to the evidence, Fatima Begum approved the arrangement and the publication of the books throughout the duration of the arrangement so the legal representatives of Maulana Azad were estopped from disputing the validity of the aforementioned arrangement after reaping its benefits for so long without raising any issues. In addition, the plaintiff did not sustain any permanent loss or harm.
  • The injunction was therefore rejected.