10 Jun 2023 12:07 PM GMT
The Calcutta High Court has held that jurisdiction of civil courts is barred by Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act, 2001 inso far as deciding validity of registration of a variety is concerned.A division bench of Justice IP Mukherji and Justice Biswaroop Chowdhury observed Section 89 provides that the civil court would not have any jurisdiction over any matter which...
The Calcutta High Court has held that jurisdiction of civil courts is barred by Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act, 2001 inso far as deciding validity of registration of a variety is concerned.
A division bench of Justice IP Mukherji and Justice Biswaroop Chowdhury observed Section 89 provides that the civil court would not have any jurisdiction over any matter which the Registrar has the power to determine. It said,
"If the civil courts had the power to adjudge the validity of registration of a variety, it could have only gone into the question prima facie at the motion stage. The final adjudication, would determine the ultimate validity. The intention of the legislature is otherwise. Section 89 of PPVFR Act like its corresponding Section 93 in the Trade Marks Act, 1999 imposes a bar on the civil courts to determine any matter over which the authority or the Registrar [of Plant Varieties] has jurisdiction."
According to the bench, once a plant variety has been registered under Section 24 of the Act it cannot be subjected to the test of validity by civil court even if such a test is made prima facie. It noted that only the Registrar under the Act would have the power to rectify, alter or cancel the registration of a plant variety on the grounds of invalidity.
The development ensued in an appeal preferred by Pan Seeds Pvt Limited against a District court order alleging that the judge overstepped his jurisdiction at the injunction stage by going into the question of validity of registration of a registered plant variety.
The factual matrix of the case reveals that in March 2009, the appellants had registered Trademarks “JAMUN” as well as “PAN 804 JAMUN”. For a plant variety to be registrable under the Act, there is a three-fold test of Distinctiveness, Uniformity and Stability laid down under Section 19 of the PPV & FR Act. According to the appellants in the registration application, the distinguishable feature for the variety sought to be registered was its white stigma.
For a plant variety to be registrable under the Act, there is a three-fold test of Distinctiveness, Uniformity and Stability laid down under Section 19. According to the appellants in the registration application, the distinguishable feature for the variety sought to be registered was its white stigma.
Appellants submitted that they subsequently discovered the respondents using, selling and producing a variety of seeds under the name JAMUN and DURONTO which is identical to theirs. The similarity exhibited was in the names, but also the colour of the stigma of the plant variety which was white in both.
Appellants thus approached the District court seeking reliefs such as a perpetual injunction against the respondents, which the district court allowed vide an ex parte ad interim order.
Consequently the respondents approached the High Court who asked the trial court to reexamine the injunction application from the motion stage.
The Bench noted that in these proceedings before the District court, the respondents also moved an Order 7 Rule 11 CPC application, for rejection of plaint. According to Ranjan Bachawat, Counsel for the appellants, the Court below heard the dismissal application before they heard the injunction application, clearly in derogation of the High Court’s directions. Further, the respondents were allowed to file an affidavit opposing the registration of the appellants without the appellants being give a chance to file a rejoinder.
While upholding the appeal and calling the judgement of the trial court perverse, the High Court said,
"The court could only go into the question whether the appellant and the respondents’ varieties were similar, for the purpose of consideration whether injunction should be granted. In my opinion, it is an admitted fact that the two varieties are similar and an injunction ought to have been granted…. where a court is concerned with an application for grant of an interim order, the respondent does not have a chance to use an affidavit, at that point of time, to resist the order. The courts do permit and rightly so, the respondent to rely upon whatever documents he has in his possession to resist the interim order…..however, if on the basis of such documents, the appellant’s prima facie case was demolished, in the eyes of the court and the interim application liable to be dismissed, which the court ultimately did, the learned judge ought to have given an opportunity to the appellant to deal with those documents….solely relying on the documents produced by the respondents without an opportunity to the appellant to deal with them, was violation of the principles of natural justice and fairness."
Coram: Justice I.P. Mukherji and Justice Biswaroop Chowdhury
Case Title: Pan Seeds Pvt. Ltd. v Ramnagar Seeds Farm Pvt. Ltd. and Ors.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Cal) 156
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