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Mashelkar resigns from expert group on patents

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Dr R.A. Mashelkar
Dr R.A. Mashelkar

Our Bureau

MumbaiMarch 17Dr R.A. Mashelkar has resigned as head of the expert committee that was set up to look into patent law issues, after "personalised attacks" were made against him alleging plagiarism in the report submitted by the expert group.

Upset with the doubts expressed about his "integrity, competence and motives," Dr Mashelkar told

Business Line

that he was "deeply pained" with the allegations being made against him from different quarters. "There have been 12 Mashelkar committees, on issues varying from the Bhopal gas tragedy, spurious drugs and the national auto fuel policy, and never has my integrity been in question," he said.

Dr Mashelkar, in his letter to the Industrial Policy and Promotion Secretary, Dr Ajay Dua, has asked to be relinquished from his post as head of the technical expert group.

No reconsideration

Asked if he would reconsider, if requested by the Centre, he told this correspondent that he had made up his mind and would not reconsider his decision. "I have faith in my four colleagues that they can finish the job," he said.

The `Technical Expert Group on Patent Law Issues' headed by Dr Mashelkar had submitted a 56-page report last December to the Centre. He withdrew this report late last month on grounds of "technical inaccuracy and plagiarism".

Though allegations of being pro-multinational companies and plagiarism plagued the report, the Centre had gone back to Dr Mashelkar and asked him to re-submit the report after correcting the inaccuracies.

The committee was originally set up in April 2005 to look into two contentious issues referred to it by the Centre following a debate in Parliament after the Patents (Amendment) Bill, 2005 was introduced.

`Lack of consensus'

The committee was to look into whether it would be compatible with the World Trade Organisation's Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement to limit the grant of patents for pharmaceutical substances to new chemical entities or new medical entities involving one or more inventive steps only.

It also had to address whether microorganisms could be excluded from patenting.A pharma industry official said that given the plethora of allegations that surrounded the original report, the technical committee would have found it tough to go with the same report with just the contested parts pulled out. There were also rumblings that all members on the committee did not agree on the conclusions of the original report. A section of the pharmaceutical industry, however, said that it was not fair to make Dr Mashelkar a scapegoat, when the committee also comprised other eminent members. The technical expert group also comprised Professor Madhava Menon, Professor Moolchand Sharma, Professor Goverdhan Mehta and Professor Asis Dutta. Last year, Dr Mashelkar had retired as Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 18, 2007)
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