[Ip-health] Novartis case UPDATE – Is the Department of Legal Affairs refusing to appoint the Attorney General?

Thirukumaran Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Tue Mar 6 08:01:38 PST 2012

I was asked to post this to ip-health on behalf of the Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+).



India – Is the Department of Legal Affairs refusing to appoint the Attorney General?

India’s Supreme Court is scheduled to start the final hearing of the Novartis vs. the Union of India case (SC 20539-20549/2009) on 28 March2012. The hearings were initially scheduled to start on 28 February, but the Mumbai terror attack trial in the Supreme Court has been running later than anticipated, and Justice Aftab Alam, who has been hearing the Mumbai attack case, is also part of the two judge bench that will hear the Novartis case.

Novartis appoints India’s top lawyers: As some of you may be aware, Novartis has lined up very senior and very expensive lawyers, including two former Solicitor Generals’ of India - Mr. Adhyarujina and Mr. Gopal Subramanium - to represent the pharmaceutical company against the government of India. 

Indian Government’s failure to appoint its senior most legal counsel: Mr. Rohinton Nariman, who recently took over as Solicitor General of India, cannot represent the government of India, as he has represented Novartis in the past. Instead, the government was represented by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Mr. Haren Rawal in the case hearings that took place in 2011.

Concerned about strengthening the government's defence in a case that is likely to impact production and availability of more affordable generic medicines, patient and public health groups wrote to the Law Ministry in November 2011, urging it to appoint the country’s most senior legal advisor - the Attorney General – to the case. (See attached DNP+ letter).   

However, it has just come to our attention that the Department of Legal Affairs has now officially proposed to the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (Commerce Ministry), which is in charge of the case, that another ASG Mr. Gaurav Banerjee be appointed to defend the government, instead of the Attorney General.

The Novartis Supreme Court case is the final act in a legal battle that stretches back six years over India's future capacity to produce low-cost generic medicines for its people, and for patients in other developing countries.

With less than three weeks before the case starts, the Department of Legal Affairs failure to appoint the Attorney General is likely to affect the preparation of a defence for the government in a case that deals with complex patentability issues.     

Given the potentially huge ramifications on generic production and the availability of affordable medicines (including AIDS, TB, cancer) from India, civil society should urge DIPP to press the Department of Legal Affairs to appointment of the senior most legal advisor for the government of India - the Attorney General - to the case.

Already, NGOs around the world, treatment providers, patient groups and affected communities have been appealed to Novartis to stop its legal attacks on the ‘pharmacy of the developing world.’

Vikas Ahuja
Delhi Network of Positive People


Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)

thiru at keionline.org

Tel: +41 22 791 6727
Mobile: +41 76 508 0997

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