Judg­ing Mat­ters

PRATHIBA SINGH HAS CON­TRIB­UTED TO SOME OF THE MOST IM­POR­TANT IPR LAWS AND GIVEN LAND­MARK JUDGMENTS.

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PRATHIBA Singh’s jour­ney from a top IPR lawyer to a Per­ma­nent Judge in the Delhi High Court is full of mile­stones. She was a mem­ber of the IPR Think Tank which drafted In­dia’s Na­tional IPR Pol­icy in 2015, mem­ber of the com­mit­tee to amend the Copyright Act in 2012 and mem­ber of the Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee to amend the Patent Act in 2002. How pow­er­ful does she feel as a Judge? “It is hu­mil­ity com­bined with bless­ings to do jus­tice. If I per­ceive it as power, I don’t think I can do jus­tice. This is a po­si­tion of hu­mil­ity, not power,” says Jus­tice Singh, who be­came Per­ma­nent Judge of Delhi HC in May 2017.

The jury noted Jus­tice Singh’s judge­ment this Fe­bru­ary strik­ing down an ex­clu­sion clause that al­lowed in­surance firms to dis­al­low com­pen­sa­tion to pa­tients with ge­netic dis­or­ders. The judge­ment held that even pa­tients with ge­netic dis­or­ders can’t be dis­al­lowed com­pen­sa­tion. This was im­por­tant as any­one with ge­netic dis­or­ders couldn’t get a claim. The rul­ing struck down this ex­clu­sion and held that in­surance is an in­te­gral part of the right to health­care. The Supreme Court has since par­tially stayed the Delhi HC or­der.

Jus­tice Singh earned her spurs as IPR lawyer and man­ag­ing part­ner at law firm ‘Singh & Singh’ fight­ing some tricky

WHY SHE MAT­TERS She has given a land­mark judg­ment on ex­clu­sion of pa­tients with ge­netic dis­or­ders by in­sur­ers

cases. The most no­table was be­ing on the win­ning side with Ci­pla against in­no­va­tor No­var­tis for Ci­pla’s right to pro­duce a generic ver­sion of No­var­tis’s Glivec in In­dia and sell it at one­tenth the price. “As an IP lawyer it was the high point of my ca­reer,” says Jus­tice Singh. “That case put In­dia on the global IPR map. The judge­ment did not di­lute the rights of in­no­va­tors and bal­anced it with ac­cess to medicines.”

Jus­tice Singh de­rives equal sat­is­fac­tion from her con­tri­bu­tion to the Na­tional IPR Pol­icy. But the one she con­sid­ers equally ful­fill­ing was her con­tri­bu­tion to law-making in the early part of her ca­reer. “When the Patent Amend­ment Act was be­ing con­sid­ered in 2002 and the bill had come in 1999, I had picked two spe­cific pro­vi­sions to make my pre­sen­ta­tion. The main as­pect I pre­sented to the Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee was on pro­tec­tion of com­puter-re­lated in­ven­tions. I had sug­gested a par­tic­u­lar amend­ment and that fi­nally got ac­cepted for the Act,” says Jus­tice Singh.

What she rues is the re­duced phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity af­ter she be­came a Judge. She un­der­stands a judge’s per­spec­tive bet­ter now than she did as a lawyer. “You can use many ad­vo­cacy skills to judge what is right and wrong. It’s also eas­ier to bring about set­tle­ments as judges,” says Jus­tice Singh.

PRATHIBA M. SINGH Per­ma­nen­tJudge, Del­hiHighCourt

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