Delhi High Court Lifts GI Tag for Basmati Rice Restriction to Seven States of India

In the case, State Government of Madhya Pradesh vs Union of India, the Delhi High Court has passed a judgement setting aside the decision of the Central Government to restrict GI Tag for Aromatic Basmati Rice production to only seven states in India.

In 2016, the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) had directed the Registrar of the Geographical Indications Registry, Chennai to register Geographical Indication (GI) Tag for Basmati Rice for the following states: Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi.

GI Tag on Basmati Rice

According to the Geographical Demarcation conducted by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Authority (APEDA), the states being located in the Indo-Gangetic plains of India have climatic conditions conducive to cultivation of Basmati Paddy. This limitation of GI tag to certain states is necessary to protect the basmati rice producers in these states and preserving the authenticity and unique identity of India’s aromatic Basmati Rice in the International Market.

GI Tag gives legal protection to the products unauthorised use and promotes the product’s demand in international markets. Currently there are 218 GI Tag products from India, to name a few popular ones Darjeeling Tea and Mysore Silk.

Madhya Pradesh vs ICAR

The Madhya Pradesh Government have been challenging the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and APEDA for a long time now to include its 13 districts in the state under the GI Tag for Basmati Paddy.

The Ministry of Agriculture had issued two office memorandums in 29th of May 2008 and 07th of February 2014 to restrict GI certification of basmati rice to these seven states. The Madhya Pradesh Government challenged the two Office Memorandums citing that the decision was outside the scope of Seeds Act, 1966. They further argued that the law passed in agricultural ministry is covered under the State Laws rather than Central Government laws.

The Delhi High Court on 29th of April set aside the two Memorandums issued by Ministry of Agriculture citing: “In Terms of Provision to Article 73 (1) of the Constitution, The executive powers of Union of India does not extend to matters in respect of which the legislature of state also has powers to make laws”.  “The Ministry of Agriculture had issued a notification dated 18.09.2017 under Section 5 of Seeds Act, restricting the seeds production of Basmati varieties of rice to the rice growing areas of the states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Parts of Uttar Pradesh and State of Jammu and Kashmir. This court is not expressing any opinion on the said notification. It will be open to the Government of Madhya Pradesh to challenge the same, in accordance to the Law”.

Basmati Rice from Madhya Pradesh

Since, basmati grown in Madhya Pradesh does not come under GI tag, the rice finds hard to command the price both in international and domestic market. India and Pakistan are the only producers of Basmati Rice in the world although Basmati Rice from Pakistan is not internationally registered. The Agricultural Ministry is hopeful that the Geographical Indication (GI) law will be enacted for Basmati Rice by the end of 2019. GI Tag is an intellectual property right legally protecting unauthorised use. Basmati Rice is the biggest and fastest growing agricultural export commodity of India and for APEDA it is imperative to protect the same for national interest of the country.

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