Madhya Pradesh moves Supreme Court seeking GI rights on Basmati rice

Omitting MP had triggered protest from Daawat Foods and farmers from the state, as well as opposition from the state government itself.

Madhya Pradesh and its Basmati growers body has knocked at the doors of the Supreme Court seeking a geographical indication (GI) tag for “Basmati” rice grown in its 13 districts.

The state has so far been unsuccessful in joining the elite group of seven states – Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand and 26 districts of Uttar Pradesh and parts of Jammu & Kashmir – which on May 31, 2010 got GI status for Basmati. The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) was granted the GI tag for 108 districts across these seven states spanning 2,89,576 sq kms. Omitting MP had triggered protest from Daawat Foods and farmers from the state, as well as opposition from the state government itself.

A bench, led by Justice LN Rao, sought response from APEDA, the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) etc as to why Madhya Pradesh’s plea for GI tag should not be accepted.

However, the SC bench continued the stay granted by the Madras high court so as to enable MP to appeal to the Supreme Court. It also posted the matter for hearing on November 25.

MP and the Madhya Kshetra Basmati Grower Association Samiti have challenged the HC’s order that upheld the IPAB order granting GI certificate for Basmati to APEDA. While dismissing MP’s plea seeking GI tag for Basmati rice grown in its 13 districts, the HC had noted that the two GI certificates of registration cannot be issued for the same produce and had suggested that the state had an “alternative and efficacious remedy” to move the registrar of trademark for cancellation or varying the GI certificate issued to APEDA.

MP, in its appeal, alleged that APEDA had been given “wrongful” GI tag and the HC order enabled the statutory body to enforce its “wrongfully” granted GI registration against its 80,000 Basmati farmers from selling their produce which they had been doing for last seven decades.

“The livelihood of these Basmati farmers is at stake who produce seven lakh tonne of Basmati paddy annually, which translates to 4.5 lakh tonne for domestic consumption and significant exports to North America, Europe and the Middle east, thus its Basmati farmers will be irreparably harmed,” counsel Gopal Jha said.

APEDA, through ASG Sanjay Jain, and counsel Abhinav Mukherjee informed the apex court that it has filed an application to the European Commission seeking GI registration for Basmati and any stay by the SC would prejudice the application.

The HC has wrongly concluded that MP had an alternative remedy, he said in the appeal. The appeal stated that “section 27 of the GI Act only permits a challenge to a GI registration before the GI registry or the IPAB, but does not provide a statutory remedy against the IPAB judgment which in this case was the source of the GI Registration. Therefore, any challenge to the GI registration u/s 27 is not possible without challenging the IPAB judgment and the petitioner could not have repproached the IPAB.” Thus, there is no alternative efficacious remedy available to MP, the state said.

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