The final hearing of the Tirupati Laddu Geographical Indication (GI) case took place in the Madras High Court on July 16, 2012. It was filed by R S Praveen Raj, scientist, National Institute of Inter-disciplinary Science and Technology (NIIST), Thiruvananthapuram, and intellectual property rights (IPR) activist against the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), the trust that administers the Venkateshwara Temple in Andhra Pradesh.
Praveen Raj did not attend the hearing. However, he and Chinnaraja G Naidu, assistant registrar of trade marks and GI, Geographical Indications Registry, Intellectual Property Office, Chennai, informed FnB News via telephone that the report on the hearing is expected by next week. Naidu said, "It is a sensational issue. Praveen Raj believes that if the Tirupati laddu is granted GI status, it would hurt the religious sentiments of billions of devotees."
In 2009, TTD secured the GI for the Tirupati laddu, which is offered as prasadam to the faithful, and according to the temple, unique in its preparation, quality and reputation. In fact, the GI Registry came under fire a few days ago for failing to fix a date for the hearing despite repeated reminders by the petitioners. "Praveen Raj said the grant violates Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution (for appropriation of religious symbols by private entities)," Naidu said.
The rectification petition was filed following a Madras High Court order on June 8, 2010, dismissing a similar one 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 that are fundamental to the nature of geographical indication protection.
Bones of contention
The contraventions under the GI Act, as claimed by the petition, are as follows:
ñ Violation of Section 11(1) read with Rules 32(5) and 32(6)(a) and (f) as geographical indications are supposed to be the collective community rights of protecting a group of producers. In the present case, TTD is the sole producer and beneficiary of the laddus
ñ Violation of Section 9(a) and (d) as the registration is likely to deceive consumers [Section 9(a)] and is likely to hurt religious susceptibilities of communities in India [Section 9(d)]
ñ 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