- Agriculture Ministry’s silence in Delhi high court case is objectionable
- Ministry must intervene and defend farmers rights
Chennai: Objecting to the Union Agriculture Ministry’s silence in the ongoing patent case before Division Bench, Delhi High Court, CPI MP D Raja has appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene to protect the interests of Indian cotton farmers and check global seed major Monsanto’s bid to “monopolise food security” in India based on this case.
“Monsanto, a multi-national company, which believes in monopolising the food security of the world to enhance their profits, has been falsely propagating a myth that they enjoy patent rights on Bt Cotton seeds in India. The eight million Indian cotton farmers have been exploited ever since the launch of Bt Cotton in 2002 by spreading of such myth which it used to jack up seed prices many fold,” Mr Raja said in his letter to Mr Modi.
The Indian Parliament, based on representations made by the farmers and members of the civil society, debated at length on the perils of allowing patents on plants or animals which can lead to monopolisation of Indian agriculture thereby leading to monopolisation of food and agriculture, Raja pointed out. Food is the basic need of the entire population while agriculture provides fo main vocation to more than 60% of Indian population despite the boom of the service sector, post the liberalisation.
“In spite of signing the WTO and TRIPS agreement, respecting this sentiment, the Indian Parliament brought in Section 3(j) in the amendment to the Indian Patent Act (IPA) in 2002.
He said “It is pertinent to note that the section 3(j) has been brought in despite having the section 3(c) in the IPA which in any way excludes patenting of all naturally occurring organisms including plants, animals and microorganisms.
The government of India passed Cotton Seeds Price (control) Order in December 2015 which Monsanto challenged with a “fallacious argument that Bt Cotton seeds are covered by their patents,” he said and appreciated the Ministry of Agriculture which “rightly defended” the writ petition filed by it before Delhi High Court pointing out that the provisions of the section 3(j) of the IPA and further arguing that Monsanto can only have IPR under PPVFR Act under which they are entitled for a benefit share for their Bt Cotton trait as to be decided by the Authority.
While this litigation is pending adjudication, the Delhi High Court ruled in March 2017 in a private suite filed by Monsanto against domestic seed companies that Monsanto’s patents gives them rights on all the Bt cotton varieties as we’ll as the seeds of the Bt cotton varieties.
“This can be dangerous situation for the Indian farmers and agriculture as it wrongly interprets the IPA, more particularly Section 3(j),” Raja said and argued: It was therefore necessary for the Government to intervene in the appeal to get proper interpretation of section 3(j) that is now under consideration before the Division Bench of Delhi High Court.
Mr Raja pointed out that the Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta seems to have understood the importance of the matter and sought permissions to file written submissions. The Ministry of Agriculture, however, remained silent when the Delhi High Court asked for a government affidavit. The ministry’s excuse was that it was a private dispute.
“This is highly objectionable,” he said, and argued that it was very much the role of the government to defend and explain the intent of the legislation to the Division Bench. Any adverse ruling upholding the single judge’s ruling by the Bench can set a “dangerous case” of law for the country harming the interest of the farmers and even the common man’s food security, he said in his letter.
He, therefore, appealed to the Prime Minister to direct the Ministry of Agriculture to protect the provision of section 3(j) of IPA by intervening in the matter and not to remain silent as “it can only help Monsanto to plunder the Indian farmers with impunity.”
“This can help MNC companies plunder all farmers as there are patents issues in many crops other than cotton lick rice, wheat, corn etc which are likely to be commercialised in future for which MNCs are lobbying,” Mr Raja added.