CJI rues lack of basic judicial infrastructure

New Delhi, Feb 26 (PTI)

 Chief Justice of India [CJI] N.V. Ramana on Saturday rued the lack of basic minimum standards of judicial infrastructure in the country, and stressed the need of not only filling the existing vacancies but also raising the number of judges in high courts to efficiently deal with intellectual property litigations.

The CJI was speaking as the chief guest at the ‘National Seminar on Adjudication of IPR Disputes in India’ here organised by the Delhi High Court, and attended by many judges from across the country and Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who said India is at a stage where growth and focus on development has got to be strengthened from every side, and intellectual property rights [IPR] play a very important role in it.

“Judicial infrastructure needs to be improved. Unfortunately, we are not even meeting the basic minimum standards in this area. It has been my endeavour since assuming the office of Chief Justice of India, to put in place an institutional mechanism to coordinate and oversee the improvement of judicial infrastructure.

Mere allocation of funds is not enough. The challenge is to put the available resources to optimum use. I have been pursuing the government for setting up of statutory authorities, both at the Centre and at the states. I am hoping for a positive response soon,” Justice Ramana said.

He reiterated his message to offshore investors that the Indian judicial system is investor friendly and absolutely independent to impart justice to all.

“When I visited Japan in 2016 to attend a conference on IPR, I was repeatedly asked by entrepreneurs as to how investor friendly the Indian judicial system is. In fact, whenever I travel abroad, from a cross section of hosts, I keep getting similar queries. My answer has always remained the same; that the Indian judiciary is absolutely independent and it always treats all the parties equally and equitably,” he said.

The union minister also stated that the union government encouraged start-ups while protecting their IPR as the boost would not have been possible with only giving up restrictions.

Sitharaman said 28,000 patents were registered last year as opposed to 4,000 in 2013-2014, and that the last year also witnessed 2.5 lakh trademark and over 16,000 copyright registrations, which will have a very strong ripple effect when scaled up as they generate its own ecosystem and revenues.

IPR disputes may look private, involve element of public interest: Delhi HC Chief Justice

Delhi High Court Chief Justice D.N. Patel, who was delivering the welcome speech, said the disputes of IPR may look private in nature but they also involve an element of public interest, and protection of intellectual property does not only include business opportunities but also the sense of mental satisfaction of the creator.

“IPR is not a simple subject; this field is undoubtedly a complex one with no geographical boundaries,” he said.

He said Delhi, being the capital of the country, has always been a hub of IPR matters, and data shows that since 2000, approximately 11,000 IPR cases were filed and around 90 per cent of those have been disposed of till date.
“Because of the enormity of the nature of litigation in Delhi, exceptionally high quality of Bar and deeper appreciation of such matters by our high court, in the times to come, it would be safe to say that the Delhi High Court is having IPR over the subject of IPR,” he said.

Delhi High Court judge Justice Prathiba M. Singh, while giving the opening remarks on “Vision of the IP Division”, said a recent trend shows an increase in trademark and copyright cases, and that India is the largest generator of creator works due to its diversity.
She said it is a misconception that intellectual property is an elitist field and only meant for rich people, adding that more than 80 per cent of the trademarks filed belong to domestic businesses.

Justice Singh further said since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Delhi High Court has received 300 fresh patent cases and standards of the intellectual property regime show where the country is progressing and that India should strive to improve its systems while improving its social and cultural ethos.

As the pandemic would show, India has affirmed that it has balance in the field of intellectual property and it has not forgotten that IP is for the betterment of the society, she said, adding that IP jurisprudence in India is very rich and the need is to disseminate this jurisprudence globally.

Referring to the ongoing pandemic, CJI Ramana said IPR protects creativity and innovation, and its importance has been felt during the COVID times as the vaccines and medications had to be researched, trials had to be conducted and commercial scale manufacturing had to take place within a span of few months.

The CJI also referred to the vesting of IPR jurisdiction back with high courts and said it has been done at a time when the judiciary is already overburdened with the backlog.
However, this would not deter the judiciary from rising to the occasion and putting in place systems which may be required to deal with the new regime, and it is an appropriate moment to build sufficient capacities in the high courts so that intellectual property litigation can be conducted efficiently and smoothly, he said.

“These new and additional challenges can be effectively met by strengthening the high courts. Not only do we need to fill the existing vacancies on an urgent basis, but there is also a need to increase the number of judges. With better service conditions, we may be able to attract more and more talents into our fold,” the CJI said.

Justice Patel, while giving a factual background on the issue, said the Intellectual Property Appellate Board [IPAB] was abolished and eventually, the Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021 came into force which gave jurisdiction to high courts to hear appeals originating from the subject.

He mentioned that the Delhi High Court received around 2,500 cases relating to IPR after the abolition of the IPAB, following which the chief justice formed a committee consisting of Justices Singh and Sanjeev Narula to devise how the court can handle the IPR matters.

Justice Patel said the committee brought in various sets of draft rules, took inputs from all the stakeholders and thereafter, the rules were notified by the Delhi High Court.

The IP division has already been established in the Delhi High Court and it will deal with all intellectual property cases under one umbrella to maintain consistency in the world of duplicity and multiplicity of proceedings, he added.