The Central Government has created yet another head-banging situation for lawyers appearing before the Copyright Board. The latest cause for this being the adjournment of the Copyright Board due to lack of quorum!
Image from here.
The Copyright Board which was scheduled to hear matters on the 15th of November, 2011 was unable to do so because of the lack of quorum. As per the law, the Copyright Board requires three members to be sitting on the bench in order to conduct proceedings. However on the day of the hearing only the Chairperson Justice R.C. Chopra (Retd.) and Prof. Shiv Kumar (Acting Director of the ILI) had arrived for the hearing. The third member, Joint Secretary of the Law Ministry did not turn up at the scheduled time after which the Chairman ordered the Registrar to call him and find out whether he was coming or not. When the Registrar called up the Joint Secretary, he was informed that the Joint Secretary would not be able to make it for that particular hearing. This happened despite the fact that the dates of the hearing were fixed in consultation with the Joint Secretary. Apparently this has happened on three occasions before where the Joint Secretary and another member cancelled the hearings a day before they were scheduled to happen. All the above facts can be confirmed from this Order passed by Justice Chopra (retd.) on the 15th of November, 2011.
We’ve also received information that the Asian Patent Attorneys Association (APAA), through its Indian representative Ms. Prathiba Singh, has filed a petition before the Delhi High Court against this appalling state of affairs. A Bench consisting of Justice Sikri and Justice Endlaw have taken cognizance of this matter and have asked the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) to give a reply by the 1st of December, 2011. That order is also available over here.
This is not the first time that the functioning of the Copyright Board has been questioned before the Delhi High Court. Last year in W.P. No. 2516 of 2010 the Delhi High Court was so shocked with the state of affairs at the Copyright Board, it suo-moto issued notice to the Central Govt. It had appointed Ms. Prathiba Singh as amicus curia and literally forced the Central Government to give the Copyright Board some basic facilities.
Then in January, 2011 the very constitutionality of the Copyright Board was challenged by SIMCA before the Madras High Court. A critical point raised in the petition was the fact that full time members of the Executive (i.e. Secretaries of the Central Government) were being appointed to a judicial body. The petition before the Madras High Court is literally crawling.
When the term of the Copyright Board expired in April this year, the Ministry of HRD was required to appoint a whole new board and despite SIMCA’s petition before the Madras High Court it appointed the very same ex-officio members to the Copyright Board, the only welcome addition being Justice Chopra as the Chairperson.
This happened despite the following recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee examining Copyright Bill, 2010: “The Committee observes that the responsibilities of the Copyright Board, a very important statutory body assigned very crucial powers and functions, have increased manifold over the years. Not only this, in the light of changing global scenario with emerging areas coming under the Copyright Law, the need for strengthening the Copyright Board is being increasingly felt. It has to be a full time Board with inclusion of experts in specified areas related to Copyright law.”
Why then does the Government continue to appoint Central Government bureaucrats and directors of national law schools as ex-officio members of the Copyright Board? Secretaries in Central Government Ministries have a full time job as is also the case with the Directors of the national law schools. How are they going to find time to sit on the Copyright Board? How difficult is it for the Central Government to appoint full-time members? The central government’s approach towards the Copyright Board is simply shocking and it does not appear that anything constructive is going to happen until the judiciary initiates contempt proceedings against the Central Government.