The State of Madhya Pradesh and the Madhya Shetra Basmati Growers Association have lost two separate cases filed by them in the Madras High Court in 2016 challenging the exclusion of 13 districts in the State from a map submitted by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) seeking Geographical Indication tag for basmati rice grown in the Indo Gangetic Plain.
Justices R. Subbiah and C. Saravanan dismissed both the writ petitions on the primary ground of maintainability after stating that the Geographical Indications Registry (GIR) had already issued GI tag certificates to APEDA by accepting its claim that basmatic rice was grown only in the States of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Uttarakhand apart from 26 districts in Uttar Pradesh besides Jammu as well as Kathua.
The judges pointed out that after the filing of the present petitions in 2016, challenging an order passed by the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) in Chennai, the GIR had passed an order on March 15, 2018 accepting APEDA’s application. Since two more writ petitions had been filed in 2018 challenging the grant of GI tag to APEDA and those cases were still pending, adjudication of present petitions had become merely academic, they added.
4 weeks’ suspension
However, after the pronouncement of the verdict, the judges suspended the operation of their order for a period of four weeks at the instance of the petitioners’ counsel who intended to take the judgment on appeal to the Supreme Court. The issue dates back to November 2008 when APEDA, a statutory body, filed an application before an Assistant Registrar of Geographical Indications in Chennai seeking GI tag for basmati rice.
In 2010, the State of Madhya Pradesh opposed APEDA’s application on the ground that the application had excluded the 13 districts of Morena, Bhind, Gwalior, Sheopur, Datia, Shivpuri, Guna,Vidisha, Raisen, Sehore, Hoshangabad, Jabalpur and Narsinghpur. The Assistant Registrar, in December 2013, directed APEDA to refile its application within 60 days along with a new map clearly demarcating the areas where basmati was actually cultivated.
Aggrieved over the Assistant Registrar’s decision, APEDA took the matter on appeal to IPAB which on February 5, 2016 directed the Geographical Indications Registry to issue a certification of registration to APEDA by accepting a map already submitted by it. In so far as the claim of Madhya Pradesh for inclusion of its 13 districts was concerned, the Board directed the Assistant Registrar to consider that issue afresh after hearing both sides.
It was the February 2016 order of IPAB which had been challenged in the present writ petitions before the Bench led by Justice Subbiah. Even as these petitions were pending in the court for the last four years, the Assistant Registrar went ahead and registered the GI tag in favour of APEDA in March 2018 and the State of Madhya Pradesh as well as the Madhya Shetra Basmati Growers Association filed separate writ petitions challenging the registration.