The Registrar of the Geographical Indications has finally scheduled a hearing on the rectification petition over the controversial grant of G.I. status to Tirupati Laddu for July 16. Incidentally, Prashant earlier this month criticized the Registry for failing to fix a date for hearing in the rectification proceedings against the grant of G.I status to ‘Tirupati Laddu’ and ‘Darjeeling Tea’ despite repeated reminders by the respective petitioners for more than a year now.
By way of a quick recap, Mr. R.S. Praveen Raj, an IP enthusiast and scientist at NIIST filed the rectification petition to revoke the G.I. secured by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) over the famous Tirupati Laddu in 2009. TTD is a trust administering the Venkateshwara temple situated on Tirumala Hills in Andhra Pradesh and it claims that the prasadam is known for its uniqueness in quality, reputation and other characteristics which go in its preparation. The grant of G.I status remains contentious since the beginning with many accusing TTD of commercializing religious faith. The rectification petition was filed following the order of the Madras High Court on June 8, 2010 dismissing a similar petition before it for availability of alternate efficacious remedy under Section 27 of the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.
The petition raises certain issues fundamental to the nature of G.I protection. The petition claims the following contraventions under the G.I Act:
(a) Violation of Section 11(1) read with Rules 32(5) and 32(6)(a)&(f) as GIs are supposed to be collective community rights of protecting a group of producers. In the present case, TTD is the sole producer and beneficiary of the Laddus.
(b) Violation of Sections 9(a) and (d) as the registration it is likely deceive consumers [Section 9(a)] and is likely to hurt religious susceptibilities of communities in India [Section 9(d)].
(c) Tirupati Laddu does not fit the description of ‘goods’ defined under Section 2(f) for it being a sacred offering not akin to ‘industrial goods’.
Further, the petition opposes the grant for violation of Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution for appropriation of religious symbol by private entities. Moreover, the petition states that a monopoly on temple offerings does not serve any industrial purpose and that it defeats the spirit of G.I protection. For a detailed overview of some of the issues, please refer to an article published in the NUJS Law Review in 2010 available here.