In a setback to Monsanto Biotech India Pvt. Ltd (MMBL), the Delhi High Court on Friday refused to stay the government’s notification to set up a committee to regulate Bt cotton seed prices in the country.
The agriculture ministry, in accordance with the Cotton Seeds Price Control Order, 2015, had on January 27 set up a nine-member committee under a joint secretary to execute its cotton price control order issued on December 7, 2015. According to the December notification, the decision to put Bt cotton seeds under price control was taken in view of farmers finding the seeds ‘to be highly priced’ and the need to bring ‘uniformity’ in their prices across the country.
Justice Manmohan, while refusing to stay the appointment of the panel, sought a response from the government on a petition filed by MMBL, a joint venture between Mahyco and Monsanto, challenging the agriculture ministry’s notification. MMBL had stated in its petition that the price control order is “illegal and unconstitutional” and the government can’t regulate its prices.
Senior counsel Abhishek Singhvi and Sandeep Sethi, appearing for the company, sought stay on the notification of the committee.
Additional solicitor-general Tushar Mehta had argued that the government’s power to pass orders under the Essential Commodities Act overrides existing laws, including the Patents Act 1970. This, the government said, justifies its move to regulate royalty fees charged by patent holders like MMBL.