Major irregularities in Mr. Rahaman’s appointment to the Intellectual Property Appellate Board


As most of our readers may already know, the constitutionality of the IPAB has been challenged on the grounds that it violates the ‘separation of powers’ between the Executive and the Judiciary. We had filed RTIs to gain an insight into the actual working of the Board and in the process we seem to have discovered major mind-boggling irregularities in the appointment process itself wherein the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) have disregarded mandatory government procedures. These irregularities pertain to the appointments of Syed Obaidur Rahaman. The officers responsible for these appointments have most probably retired.
Image from here.
(i) Syed Obaidur Rahaman, Technical Member of the IPAB (recently retired): When the Madras High Court admitted the PIL challenging the constitutionality of the IPAB, we had carried a post on how an RTI by one Mr. Kalra had revealed that Syed Obaidur Rahaman had claimed to have appeared in English cases dating back to the 19th Century! The ToI has carried a story on this. Well now we have a copy of his original application which confirms our initial suspicion (available over here). As per the application form for the post of Technical Member, IPAB all applicants are required to cite the judgments in which they have appeared because the Trade Marks Act, 1999 required the appointment of either former Trade Mark Registrars or advocates with extensive experience in Trade Mark Law. (A copy of the Application form is available over here). In his application form Mr. Rahaman has claimed to have appeared in Lever v. Goodwin, an English case dating back to 1887. As per his application form his date of birth is the 18th of January, 1959. How could he even claim to appear in an English case in 1887? Of the remaining 13 cases he cites in his favour, at least 12 cases were decided even before he joined the Bar in 1986. The one case that was decided in 1987 does not have his name on it.

The Selection Committee which short-listed Mr. Rahaman’s name had three members – Secretary, DIPP; Secretary, Legal Affairs & Secretary, Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT). Of the three applications received by the Committee it narrowed down Mr. Rahaman’s name along with another candidate. It does not give any reasons for dis-regarding the name of the third candidate. Mr. Rahaman was to be given the first preference and if he turned down the offer it would go to the next candidate. Also please note that the applications are not accompanied by copies of educational qualifications and cases in which he has appeared. If you look at page 23 of Mr. Rahaman’s file you will note that the DIPP asked Mr. Rahaman to submit his certificates only after the Selection Committee has made its decision. How then does the Selection Committee make its decision? God knows!

The file after being approved by the Minister for Commerce & Industry was sent to the Appointment Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) for approval. The ACC approved Mr. Rahaman’s name with instructions that an appointment letter be issued once an antecedent verification certificate has been issued by the West Bengal Police. This approval from the cabinet was given only in December, 2005 i.e. more than a year after Rahaman’s application and not a single person in the Central Government bothered to ask him to prove his damn qualifications!

In the meanwhile after several failed attempts to get the West Bengal Government to verify Mr. Rahaman’s antecedents, the DIPP wrote directly to Mr. Rahaman on the 16th of January, 2005, requesting him for attested copies of his birth certificate, Bar Council enrolment certificate and certified copies of the judgments cited by him in his application. On the 30th of January, 2006 the DIPP made a file noting (p.69 of this file) stating that it had received communication from Mr. Rahaman that he had already furnished all the documents and would do so again if required and requested that joining letter be issued immediately. The file noting then realizes that the DIPP had a photocopy of the educational qualification and Bar Council registration. There is no mention of the cases as of yet. The file noting ends with the mention that appointment order may be issued subject to an endorsement that the appointment was contingent on the production of original certificates in support of his educational qualifications and mark-sheets. On the basis of this an appointment order was issued on 6th February, 2006 on behalf of the President appointing Mr. Rahaman to the IPAB as Technical Member of the IPAB. A subsequent file noting on the 10th of February, 2006 notes that Mr. Rahaman has submitted copies of the required documents but that they were not attested. The noting fails to mention that Rahaman has not supplied copies of any of the cases in which he claimed to have appeared.

So basically Mr. Rahaman was appointed without any verification of his claimed experience in trademark law.

(ii) Did the DIPP knowingly turn a blind-eye to the issue of Mr. Rahaman’s appointments?

A file-noting (p. 90) on the 24th of December, 2009 noted that a RTI application from Mr. Pushpinder Pal Singh Kalra had sought the qualifications of Mr. Rahaman. The officer writing the note mentions that the DIPP does not have any of the documents pertaining to the cases in which Mr. Rahaman has claimed to have appeared. All attempts to trace such documents failed. Mr. Rahaman had an entire year at the IPAB after this noting and yet the DIPP did not take any corrective steps.

How did the system fail so badly? Will anybody be held accountable for this?

In my opinion all judgments delivered by Syed Obaidur Rahaman need to be re-examined once again.
Tags:
Prashant Reddy

Prashant Reddy

T. Prashant Reddy graduated from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, with a B.A.LLB (Hons.) degree in 2008. He later graduated with a LLM degree (Law, Science & Technology) from the Stanford Law School in 2013. Prashant has worked with law firms in Delhi and in academia in India and Singapore. He is also co-author of the book Create, Copy, Disrupt: India's Intellectual Property Dilemmas (OUP).

9 comments.

  1. AvatarAnonymous

    There is mention of 14 cases in all in which Mr. Rahman claimed to have appared. At Sl. No: 9 and 14 it is the same case namely AIR 1978 Delhi 250. You have not noted that.
    Besdies, what I have noted is that Mr. Rahman joined on 6th February, 2006 (see page 10) while the appointement letter is of 28th Februay, 2006 (See page 11).

    Reply
  2. AvatarAnonymous

    refer to your post now this issue is irrelevant as Mr. Rahman has retired now, pls take up other issues, which are relevant in present scenario like corruption etc in TM registry

    Reply
  3. AvatarAnonymous

    Dear Prashant,
    Fantastic work on the RTI applications, and in general the tremendous efforts you have put in unearthing this information. From the looks of it, Mr.Rahaman’s credentials certainly appear circumspect.

    I just went through his resume, and I think another line of thinking is possible; I would like to know your thoughts on it.

    Mr.Rahaman’s use of english, in his resume, has a provincial feel to it. Is it possible Mr.Rahaman completely misunderstood the question “Citations of some of the important trade mark cases appeared in the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India/in any of the State’s High Court” to mean celebrated cases that have appeared in/have been reported in the SC and State High Courts, as opposed to cases in which he personally appeared?

    I mean he probably interpreted the question as testing his knowledge of well-known reported cases decided by the SC and State High Courts, and not cases he himself has appeared in.

    Please take a look at his answer to question 10 to understand what I mean; Question 10 requires him to give details of his special knowledge in dealing with TM laws.

    He says:

    “I am practising with trademark laws along with others laws as such I am competent to apply for the same post”.

    This is certainly not polished/refined english. This is the english of someone who does not think in the language, but uses it strictly in formal correspondence. He certainly doesn’t have a flair for the language, that much is clear,,

    Not just that, the cases he has cited were delivered in 1935, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1978, 1984, 1985 and 1987 and he mentions the years too- If his idea was to indeed take the TM Office for a ride, I think it would make little sense for him to give his enrolment date as 2/5/1986 in the same resume in an earlier page, and then a cite a slew of cases which clearly date before his date before his enrolment

    If anything, it appears he just did not understand the question; of course, his appointment could be faulted on grounds that he does not have the requisite knowledge of English, which his post requires; but was he really so foolish to assume that his brazen chicanery would go unnoticed? Probably not

    I am not saying his credibility is above board, to be very honest, I hadn’t even heard of him before your posts on the issue,, regardless of that, I don’t think his resume can be used to establish his malafides—in fact, the TM Office must be hauled up for not thoroughly going through his resume and for not rejecting his application,,,

    Please let me know your views,,i just think a person’s reputation is at stake and I dont think you are the kind of person who makes a statement without reasons, more so when it concerns another’s credibility

    Warm Regards,
    SKS,,

    Reply
  4. AvatarAnonymous

    [email protected] certainly has point. In our eagerness to expose irregularities, genuine mistakes should not be taken out of context. Can you rule out that Mr. Rahman was referring to leading cases ?

    Reply
  5. AvatarPrashant Reddy

    @Anon (10:14 AM): Thanks for point that out.

    @Anon (7:16 AM): What to do Sir? If people like you cannot even post such an insignificant comment under your real name, how do expect us to get information on any corruption.

    @SKS – Thank you for your comment. Its nice to hear some appreciation once in a while.

    I would not like to get into a discussion on Mr. Rahaman’s intent when he applied for the position because frankly I don’t know whether he mis-understood the application or whether he had a mala-fide intent. In either case it would be safe to assume that he was not qualified for the appointment.

    The only relevant point, in my opinion, which was also the focus of my post was whether or not he was qualified and whether the DIPP followed the prescribed procedure in recommending his appointment. Clearly the rules were flouted. Whether it was deliberate or otherwise is left up to an inquiry committee. The Government needs to fix some accountability in the DIPP, even if the officers are retired.

    Cheers,
    Prashant

    Reply
  6. AvatarAnonymous

    Courageous and excellent work!
    the very basic question I confronted here is not a single person felt a need to go through the resume and application made by the candidate for the post? I believe that the applications received by the applicants (which are numerous) are screened and “summarized” in a compact form (with required fields) and this is presented to the selection committee for a quick review as they do not have time to go through the an entire resume. And then it is really ridiculous to see that none has bothered to see to it.
    besides, second thing which amazed me is that the candidature is not transformed positively until the candidate provides the “requisite documents”. I had a glance through the documents and if one sees carefully, after the result of the committee in favour of Ms Zaveri and Mr Rehaman, both were asked to “verify”. Zaveri did that on 3/3/05. Repeated reminders were sent to Mr rehman from 7-3-05 till 13-6-05 why?? I really wonder if such a long period is required to run after that candidate?
    Thirdly, how OM was sent on 6-2-06 without the verification of the statements supported by the candidate. At least at that time, one should have questioned it.

    Regards
    S

    Reply
  7. AvatarAnonymous

    People would like to know if any enquiry committee has been constituted in respect of the irregular appointment of Mr. Obaidur Rahman and whether it is progressing.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.