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Home / Politics / Policy /  Reconstitute IPAB recruitment body with chairman as head: Madras HC

Mumbai: The Madras high court on Thursday directed the Union government to immediately reconstitute the selection committee that will choose a vice-chairman for the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB), with the IPAB’s current chairman justice K.N. Basha as its head. The IPAB is India’s appellate tribunal for patent cases.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) which said the existing selection committee is dominated by bureaucrats and government nominees, violating Supreme Court guidelines which recommended persons with judicial experience and legal training for such committees. The government does not advertise open positions in these committees either, the PIL alleged.

The committee, currently headed by Department Of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) secretary Amitabh Kant, has only one member—justice Basha—with judicial experience. The other two members are bureaucrats—P.K. Malhotra, secretary, department of legal affairs, and P.S. Ahuja, director-general of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

A bureaucrat-led committee choosing an appellate board member—a post equivalent to that of a high court judge—violates the Constitution and is inappropriate, said the PIL, filed by Shamnad Basheer, an intellectual property lawyer and former IP chair at Kolkata’s National University of Juridical Sciences.

The court mentioned that a person in the capacity of a judge (justice Basha) also cannot become a subordinate member in a committee headed by a bureaucrat.

DIPP, the central government department responsible for making policies and regulations related to intellectual property rights including and patents and trademarks, had set up the committee to select a vice-chairman for IPAB after justice S. Usha retired in June.

In August, the central government assured the court that it would not proceed with the process of selecting a vice-chairman until the court decides on the matter. It also told the court that it had set up the selection committee fully in compliance with the existing provisions in the law pertaining to postings at appellate tribunals.

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