The Geographical Indication (GI) Registry has dismissed Madhya Pradesh’s plea for its inclusion in the Basmati growing region saying there is no ‘corroborative evidence’ to suggest that the aromatic variety is grown in the state.
The GI Registry in an order passed on March 15 has said: “This tribunal reaches a conclusion that there is proper demarcation of cultivation area in the GI application filed by the respondent applicant (Apeda). The opponent (MP government and others) failed to prove the Basmati cultivation in the claimed with supporting documents. A mere plea without supported by any corroborative evidence, has no gravity in the eye of Law. In finale, the oppositions are disallowed as lack of merit.”
Basmati is grown in 77 districts of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand, western Uttar Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. The aromatic rice variety is also grown in a few districts of Punjab in Pakistan.
“The mandate of GI is to protect products of historical origin that have as a result acquired global reputation just as France has done for champagne. Therefore area expansion either from India or from Pakistan would be detrimental to the GI tag of Basmati. This verdict reiterates the message internationally that India upholds principle of GI in letter and spirit,” said Priyanka Mittal, director of India’s largest basmati exporter KRBL Ltd.The Chennai-based Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) in February 2016 had directed the GI Registry to issue a certificate of registration to the Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda) and reconsider afresh only the plea of inclusion of 13 districts of Madhya Pradesh.
Apeda, which had applied for the GI tag for Basmati rice in 2008 and got the registration after seven years of legal battle, had moved the Intellectual Property Appellate Board in 2014, challenging GI Registrar’s first decision (in December 2013) that directed it to file an amended GI application by including all areas where basmati rice is cultivated, including Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar. While other states stayed away from the legal battle, MP has been following it by roping in growers, millers and agriculture scientists.
Apart from the state government, there were Madhya Kshetra Basmati Growers Association Samiti, Narmada Cereals, SSA International (from Raisen district), Daawat Foods and Madhya Kshetra Basmati Exporters Association who had sought inclusion of 13 districts. The parties to the oppositions are given three months to file the appeal, if any, in the IPAB, Chennai.
“If these parties do not proceed further in the legal battle, the GI for basmati will be settled and India can initiate GI registration for the aromatic rice in other countries where there is a chance of infringement of the name,” said an industry official citing the example of Champagne, which has been registered in India under GI by France’s Comite Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) in 2010.
There were many instances in the past as companies tried to register their products under Basmati, since it commands a premium in the global market.
In the latest order, the GI registry said as per the direction of the IPAB, it has heard both sides on the limited issue of inclusion of 13 districts of Madhya Pradesh — Morena, Bhind, Gwalior, Sheopur, Datia, Shivpuri, Guna, Vidisha, Raisen, Sehore, Hoshangabad, Jabalpur and Narshinghpur.
The registry has said that the documents and evidence filed by the state and others show the importance, special characters of rice cultivated in MP but not the Basmati cultivation in the traditional growing area. “Opponent has therefore failed to satisfy the fundamental requirement of popular public perception of Basmati-cultivation in Madhya Pradesh as mentioned by the honourable IPAB Chennai,” the order said.
By Prabhudatta Mishra