SC frowns on Kamal Nath's statement

Minister made comment on Patents

The Supreme Court on Wednesday frowned upon the “statement of object and reasons” of the Patents (Amendment) Act 2005 and said the speech made by erstwhile Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath “sounded more like an apology than a statement by a sovereign country.”

A bench of justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai, while hearing a petition filed by Swiss drug-maker Novartis, on patent issue of  the drug Glivec, made the observation after senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam referred to the speech delivered by Nath.

Nath, who is the Union Urban Development Minister at present,  had introduced the third set of amendment to the Patents Act, 1970, in Parliament to meet India’s obligations under the agreement on the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) and avoid any retaliatory action under the disputes mechanism of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

He had said India had no legal basis to defend its default on the deadline as it had already availed the entire ten-year period provided under TRIPs agreement.

During the hearing, the counsel referred to the speech. “This default would also have created a legal vacuum for mailbox applications for patents as there would not be any mechanism to deal with them after January 1, 2005... Finally there would have been an erosion of India’s credibility in the international field,” Nath had said.

“What kind of a statement is this? It sounds to me more like an apology than a statement being made by a sovereign country. They don’t even say if the proposed amendment was best in the interest of the Indian economy. We think it should have been the first thing they should have said. The statement is more apologetic than anything,” Justice Alam said. It was then pointed out by the other counsel that the statement was corollary to the oppositions to the amendment in the patent law.

The hearing, which remained inconclusive, is likely to resume on Thursday.
Meanwhile, a fresh affidavit filed by Novartis was objected to by the Cancer Patient Aid Association, engaged in a legal battle with the company which is marketing Glivec (Imatinib Mesylate in the beta crystalline form), a drug administered for treatment of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia.

Senior counsel Anand Grover, appearing for the association, pointed out that the patient assistance programme run by the company to distribute Glivec free of cost or at a subsidised cost came with the condition that its product will not be subjected to “regulatory price control.”

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