In a significant development in India’s ensuing Basmati GI litigation, the Supreme Court of India, a 3 Judge bench headed by Hon’ble Justice Nageshwar Rao, issued a notice in the Special Leave Petitions filed by the Madhya Kshetra Basmati Growers Association Samiti (MKBGA) and the State of Madhya Pradesh.
In the interim, the Supreme Court of India has also restrained the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) from taking coercive action against the Petitioners according to the GI registration granted in favour of APEDA over Basmati. The Supreme Court has said that there are aspects that need to be introspected upon and has listed the matter for final disposal on 25th November 2020.
MKBGA was represented by Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Sr. Counsel, while the State of Madhya Pradesh was represented by Mr. J. Sai Deepak. They were assisted by Mr. Mohit Goel, Mr. Sidhant Goel, Mr. Aditya Goel of Sim and San, Attorneys At Law, and Ms. Ruchira Gupta, Mr. Avinash Sharma, and Mr. R. Abhishek.
The Respondents – IPAB & APEDA, were represented by Mr. P.S. Narsimha, Sr. Counsel, and Mr. Sanjay Jain, Additional Solicitor General of India, respectively.
The Petitioners, MKBGA and the State of Madhya Pradesh, challenged the grant of a Geographical Indication Registration on “Basmati” Rice in favour of APEDA under the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999. APEDA’s GI registration, as per the Petitioners, blanketly claims five entire States (Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh) and parts of two States (Jammu & Kashmir, and Uttar Pradesh), i.e., 108 districts across seven States spanning 2,89,576 Sq. Km.
The Petitioners have submitted that APEDA has claimed GI territories/areas in an unscientific, overbroad and vague fashion to the detriment of the brand Basmati and contrary to express and clear statutory and legal requirements of the GI Act. APEDA had claimed these areas on the ground that they form part of the Indo-Gangetic Plain and that there was a “popular perception” that these areas were the only traditional basmati growing areas. While claiming these areas in a blanket fashion, the Petitioners are also separately aggrieved of exclusion by APEDA of 13 districts of the State of Madhya Pradesh, which, according to the Petitioners, are traditional basmati growing areas for the past many decades. The Petitioners have separately filed proceedings for inclusion of 13 districts of the State of Madhya Pradesh, which are traditional basmati growing areas. These proceedings are currently pending adjudication before High Court of Madras.
Lex Witness’ Editorial Take
“If the special leave petitions are allowed by Honble Supreme Court, the rights of Basmati farmers of the state of MP will be vindicated. It will also mean that APEDA will have to demarcate territories more carefully.” said, PBA Srinivasan, Editor in Chief, Lex Witness.
Originally, the GI Registrar had rejected APEDA’s the GI Application based on the Petitioners multiple objections, including that APEDA had claimed it’s the GI territories/areas in an unscientific, overbroad and vague fashion. However, on an appeal filed by APEDA against the Registrar’s order, the IPAB had, inter alia, directed registration of GI for the territories as claimed by APEDA. Thereafter, the Petitioners filed Writ Petitions before the Madras High Court challenging the GI registration granted in favour of APEDA. Thse Writ Petitions were dismissed on 27 February 2020. It is against the dismissal of these Writ Petitions that the Petitioners filed the Special Leave Petitions before the Supreme Court of India.