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Delhi HC refuses stay Centre's Bt cotton order

The Delhi High Court refused to issue a stay order to the Centre's order enabling a government-appointed panel to fix the maximum sale price of genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton seeds. The judge issued notice to the government and sought its response by March 4 on the plea of Mahyco Monsanto Biotech India challenging the Agriculture Ministry's January 27 order giving powers to the committee to fix license fee payable by sub-licensees for GM technology.

The HC clarified that ‘any action taken by respondent (Centre) in pursuance to the aforesaid order shall be subject to further orders.’ According to the January 27 order, the panel was given powers to fix the license fee payable by sub-licensees to Mahyco and suggest the licensing guidelines and format for all GM technology licensing agreements between them inter se,’ the court noted in its order.

Mahyco’s plea was that by issuing the order, the government was trying to ‘unfairly regulate and expropriate’ its rights in respect of valuable intellectual property and freedom to negotiate and contract the terms of its licensing agreements with its sub-licensees. Seeking stay, it contended that its technology is its patent and is governed by the Patents Act, 1970 and thus, the government cannot fix the price at which the company will supply its technology to seed manufacturers.

Mahyco is a joint venture between US agriculture company Monsanto and Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company which sublicenses biotechnology to seed companies.