As Voltaire said “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers”. This an effective yardstick atleast for judging our Parliamentarians who are vested with a lot of power to question and scrutinize. But are they really asking the right questions?
The national Think Tank to draft an IPR policy for India, which was recently appointed by the Government of India, has been mired in controversy. As Swaraj reported here and here, the appointment of this think tank has opened a can of worms, especially since the government just received a draft national IPR policy from a three-member group of renowned academics (constituted by the DIPP in July 2014). As reported in the Economic Times and Down to Earth, Nirmala Sitharaman had announced, in September, that the government would come out with a national IPR policy for the ‘first time’.
Answering questions by raised by some MPs in the Rajya Sabha, Sitharaman has formally recognized the constitution of such a think tank. The answers do not reveal much. Most of the MPs seem to be asking similar questions ‒ answers to most of which are already know or are easy evade. Perhaps more pointed questions on the procedure and selection criteria of members of the think tank, status of the previous report already submitted and scope/timeline and details of the present policy would be more beneficial!
On December 10, MP Achuthan asked Nirmala Sitharaman three questions related to the IP think tank in the Rajya Sabha (Unstarred Question No. 1872, dated 10/12/2014, here). They are:
(a) whether it is a fact that Government has constituted a six-member Think Tank to draft the National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy;
(b) if so, the details and objectives thereof; and
(c) whether it is a fact that this decision was taken under USA pressure during the recent visit of the Prime Minister to US?
The Minister answered ‘yes’ to the first two, stating “Think-Tank consisting of Justice Prabha Sridevan, Retd. Chairperson, IPAB as Chairperson and Ms. Prathiba Singh, Senior Advocate, Shri N.K. Sabharwal, Retd. DDG, WIPO, Ms. Punita Bhargava, Advocate, Inventure IP, Dr.Unnat Pandit, Cadila Pharmaceuticals Limited and Shri Rajeev Srinivasan, Director, Asian School of Business, Thiruvananthapuram as Members. The objective of the IPR think tank is to prepare a draft National IPR Policy that would stimulate innovation across sectors in the country and to provide advice on other issues concerning the subject.”
To the third question the minister simply answered ‘no’.
On December 3, 2014, Majeed Memon asked (Unstarred Question No. 1097 dated 3/12/2014, here) the Ministry of Commerce whether the government was going to bring out an IPR Policy and what was the target date and details for finalizing this policy. The ministry answered that it had created “an IPR Think-Tank with certain terms of reference which inter-alia includes drafting of a National Intellectual Property Rights Policy” and that no target date had been fixed for the IPR policy.
A more general query was raised by Ajay Sancheti on December 10, 2014 (Unstarred Question No. 1880 dated 10/12/2014, here) asking the ministry for details of complaints that the Government has been receiving in relation to India’s IP regime and steps taken by the Government to address these complaints. The minister replied, in what seems to be a very vague reply “Intellectual Property Rights regime has a direct impact on the interest of various stakeholders such as the companies, consumers and the society at large. Thus IPR issues are a subject of continuous discussion among the stakeholders and also the Government which is responsible for administering the regime.
(b): The Government has engaged with the stakeholders with a view to allay their concerns and to put across the rationale for the regime as it exists.”
(These questions and their answers are available on the Rajya Sabha website, Session 233)
To end with a quote by Albert Einstein “The important thing is not to stop questioning”!!
Many thanks to Onkar Singh for bringing some of these questions to our notice.