The Hindu Tuesday, November 24, 1998
CENTRE TOLD TO DROP BILLS ON PATENT RIGHTS
By Our Special Correspondent Thiruvananthapuram, Nov. 23.
The noted academician, Prof. Arun Ghosh, has called upon the BJP Government at the Centre to drop the two Bills on patent rights slated to come up before Parliament in the winter session beginning November 30.
Inaugurating a one-day national colloquium on "India's Accession to Paris Convention' organised by the AKG Centre for Research and Studies here today, Prof. Ghosh also made a strong plea to the Government of India to take advantage of the "escape clause' in the Agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to resist, "on moral and ethical grounds,' attempts at changing laws on the patenting of life forms.
Prof. Ghosh said three Cabinet meetings had been held during the last 10 days to finalise the two Bills and a fourth one was scheduled for November 25 when a final decision was expected. "This is a crucial hour. These two Bills can put the future of our country in jeopardy. Since the Congress(I) and BJP have joined hands, only the people's will can stop the Government from going ahead.'
He said there were two ways in which introduction of the Bills could be blocked. One, the State Governments could object to the Centre legislating on agriculture which was a State subject. Alternatively, any Indian citizen could go to Court seeking a directive to the Government not to go ahead with the legislation. "If we do not do something now, the country will lose its sovereignty in the matter of life forms in the coming 10 days.'
Prof. Ghosh contended that the Indian Government's decision to sign the TRIPS agreement 1994 was unconstitutional as it was done without taking the Parliament or the State Governments into confidence. The Indian Government had also failed to ensure that the country's sovereign rights were not compromised with the signing the agreement of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The U.S., on the contrary, had made accession to the WTO subject to the proviso that the rules of the organisation would not apply to it if they violated the country's laws.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. V. R. Krishna Iyer, former judge of the Supreme Court and chairman of the People's Commission on Biodiversity, Indigenous Knowledge and People's Rights, called upon the Centre to organise a Chief Ministers' conference to discuss how the country could escape the Agreement on TRIPS. He had already written to the Prime Minister urging him not to confine to Cabinet discussions the question of changing the country's patent laws.
Mr. Krishna Iyer said the GATT was being used as a fait accompli by the U.S. and other economic powers to force countries like India to change its patenting regime. The country had benefited much from the Indian Patent Act of 1970. The attempt now was to dismantle this patenting regime. "Future generations will blame us if we do not resist the attempts to steal our biodiversity,' he said.
Mr. Krishna Iyer also took a dig at the Swadeshi Jagran Manch without mentioning it by name. "When I spoke on the platform of the Swadeshis on these issues, Leftists asked me what are you doing? I said I am speaking for Swadeshi, but now I find that Swadeshi means Videshi, very much like the terms in the Orwellian dictionary where the same words carry the opposite meaning as well,' he said.
Presiding over the function, the CPI(M) politburo member, Mr. V. S. Achuthanandan, said attempts being made by colonial powers to dictate terms on intellectual property rights had to be resisted by countries like India
with rich biodiversity. He expressed the hope that a popular resistance movement would take shape in the country against unequal laws in the area of intellectual property rights.