Application of the principles of natural justice of Patent Registration
Application of the principles of natural justice
Section 25 of the Patents (Amendment) Rules, 2005 of rule 55 (1) provides the opposition of Application of the principles of natural justice depends upon the statutory implication of patent registration. The needs of natural justice differ with the varying constitution of the various Quasi-judicial authorities and the statutory provisions of the Patents (Amendment) Rules, 2005. Further, it is well settled that the application of the principles of natural justice depends upon the statutory implication. It must always be in conformity with the scheme of the Act and with the subject matter of the case. What particular rule of natural justice would apply depends on the facts and circumstances of that case. The needs of natural justice differ with the varying constitution of the various Quasi-judicial authorities and the statutory provisions of the Patents (Amendment) Rules, 2005. Hence, the question whether or not any rule of natural justice has been contravened in any particular case should be decided not under any pre conceived notions, but in the light of the relevant statutory provisions of the concern patent registration, the constitution of the Tribunal and the circumstances of each case. The decisions relied upon by the Respondents are distinguishable. The Judgment of the Supreme Court in Haryana Financial Corporation (Supra), was dealing with the case where the injury was held and the Inquiry officer submitted a report exonerating the writ petitioner of all charges. However, the Corporation was of the opinion that the report of the inquiry officer suffered from certain deficiencies. Thereafter, clarifications were sought from the inquiry officer who called the delinquent to appear before him. At such proceedings the delinquent appeared and participated without any protest. The inquiry officer then submitted his final report holding the delinquent guilty this time. That is how the notice of dismissal was issued by the Managing Director and the delinquent filed his reply to the showcase notice issued by the Managing Director. The Managing Director granted personal hearing and thereafter, dismissed the delinquent from service by a specking order. This speaking order was challenged in appeal before the Board of Directors which appeal came to be dismissed. Thereafter, writ petition was filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the argument was that the Inquiry Officer’s report was not submitted and this violates the principles of natural justice. The argument was accepted by the High Court that is why the corporation went in appeal. The Corporation argued before the Supreme Court that the inquiry report was not necessary to be submitted there is no prejudice. It is that context the Supreme Court made the observations relied upon before us. Even if the recent trend of prejudice as noted above by us is considered, that appears to be restricted to cases where the breach alleged is technical and no real prejudice is caused by denial of hearing and fair opportunity. Even otherwise, that aspect will have to be considered bearing in mind the nature of the lis, constitution of the tribunal of patent registration, the ambit and scope of the powers conferred by a particular statute and the extent of hearing indicated therein. In our view, the argument of prejudice cannot be dehors this vital aspect.
Similarly, other decisions relied upon by Mr. Kadam are also arising out of disciplinary proceedings and these decisions are rendered essentially in matters where the breach of principles of natural justice caused no injustice or prejudice.
In our view, in this case, it is not necessary to examine in further details, the aspect as to whether the breach of principles of natural justice would vitiate the proceedings to such an extent as would render the final order void. As far as our Courts are concerned, the settled view is that if the principles of natural justice are violated, the order is procedural ultravires and therefore, suffers from a jurisdictional error. Such an error is required to be corrected and is capable of being corrected by a writ of certification under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. The power of judicial review is conferred precisely to set right such errors.
Therefore, we can safely conclude that in this case the impugned order does not create any right in favor of the Respondent No. 1 and the grant of patent, therefore, cannot be said to be valid. The other decision that in relied upon by Mr. Sethna is that of the learned Single Judge of the Delhi High Court in case of Dr. Miss. Snehlata C. Gupte (supra). The observations relied upon by him were made in the backdrop of a plea of limitation raised by the learned Counsel appearing for the parties. We do not see as to how paragraph Nos. 49 to 52 and the observations therein relied upon by Mr. Sethna, in any way assist him. These observations are to be seen in the light of the ultimate finding that the opposition must be filed before the grant. The pregrant opposition must be on file before the patent is granted. The opposition being filed after the grant was clearly time barred. It is to support that conclusion the learned Single Judge has referred to the statutory scheme. This decision is of no assistance in resolving the present controversy. The argument of Mr. Kadam that the patent is granted for 20 years and substantial period has been lapsed, so also, the Respondent No. 1 has in furtherance of grant, extensively applied for and has been granted the patent for 29 countries; need not detain us.
The argument that the procedural rules create difficulties for persons like the Respondent No. 1 to apply and seek the patent, also cannot be of any assistance. Once we find that the statutory mandate has been breached and violated, then, the Respondent No. 1 will suffer prejudice if the clock has to be set back, is indeed no answer Mr. Kadam then submits that we should not set aside the grant even if we conclude that the same is issued without adherence to the principles of natural justice. In other words, while remitting the matter back to the Patent Controller we should not disturb the patent granted in favor of the Respondent No. 1 because that would have serious consequences on the trade operations. We are unable to accede to this request. If the grant does not confer any legal right as it is vitiated by non-observance of the principles of natural justice, then, to continue the patent as granted, would put a premium on the illegality of the authorities. That can never be the intention of the legislature. Hence, we have no hesitation in rejecting this plea of the learned Advocate General. Having dealt with all the pleas raised before us, we are of the opinion that consistent with the view of the Division Bench of Madras High Court, we can restrict the opportunity to object to the Petitioner only. Thus, the original and amended claims and the objections thereto raised by the Petitioner alone will be considered by the Controller afresh and the same including the supporting documents can be relied upon by the parties. The Controller, needless to state, shall not be influenced by the earlier conclusions and render a fresh decision on merits and in accordance with law. We hasten to clarify that we have not expressed any opinion on merits of the controversy and all pleas of both sides in that behalf are kept open.
In the result, while setting aside the grant and the impugned order (Annexures U and Z), we direct the Controller to give personal hearing of patent to the Petitioner and the Respondent No. 1 on the above lines and deliver a reasoned order within a period of three months from the date of appearance of the parties. However, for a period of 3 months from today no penalties be imposed on the respondent No.1 in terms of Chapter XX of the of the Patents Act, 1970 entitled to “Penalties”.
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