Lawyer Profiles I: The Case of Counterfeit Bottles and Spurious Medicines

In Bottled Water Processors Association v. Union of India, [Writ Petition (C) No. 11672 of 2009] the Learned Hon’ble Justice S. Muralidhar had found, “considering water borne diseases are on the increase during summer months” that “time is of the essence.” Many summers have gone by. The Task Force, ordered to be constituted, for cracking down on units manufacturing and selling Packaged Drinking Water, without a license and without a BIS Certification Mark, is but a grim fairy tale. Counterfeit Water Bottle Units are operating in the NCR, illegally using labels of 64 Licensed Manufacturers. Measures like checks and inspections have failed to address the problem. A pragmatic solution perhaps lies in adopting a preemptive approach besides continuing with the existing corrective approach?

Gaborian Holograms have evolved in appearance and usage. Hologram Labels are easy to use and are a very cost effective solution against duplication. It was 9 years ago that the Central Marks Department had had the foresight to introduce Marking through Holograms on Packaged Drinking Water. Licensees have not had the maturity to comply.

Recently in Dr. Satish Chandra v. Union of India & Ors. [Writ Petition (C) 7260 of 2015] the Petitioner has prayed for an issuance of a Writ, Order or Direction to I) The Union of India, as represented by the Secretary to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs & II) The Director General, Bureau of Indian Standards for the purposes of ensuring stringent action against Unlicensed Producers/Manufacturers of Packaged Drinking Water and formulating Anti-Counterfeit, Tamper Evident and Trackable Hologram Packaging Standards.

The Hon’ble High Court at New Delhi, on 31.07.2015, has been pleased to issue Notice to the Respondents. TLW spoke to the Arguing and Filing Counsel, Mr. Abhiuday Chandra (“AC”):

TLW: Tell us something more about the Petition?

AC: The Petition is not merely about Counterfeit Water Bottles. It is also about Spurious Medicines. The Drug Controller of India has said it is increasingly difficult to spot fakes. A Committee set up by the Indian Ministry of Health has approved a proposal to put 2D Barcodes on Pill Strips. The Ministry of Health has also been impleaded as a Respondent in the Writ Petition. The proposed Rule for 2D Barcodes on a Medicine Strip does not really prevent duplication.

As regards Counterfeit Water Bottles, a Hologram Seal that breaks on opening the lid and bears on it a Barcode No., which can be tracked through an SMS or a Smartphone is what is being aimed for in the Petition. For Liquor Bottles, some States have already introduced Breakable Hologram Seals to check counterfeiting. It is a pity that that isn’t the case for Packaged Drinking Water. The merely directory “Crush After Use” mandate, as provided for in The Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955, is surely not proving enough.

TLW: What was the Court’s response on the Date of Hearing?

AC: What has the Task Force, ordered for in Bottled Water Processors, achieved is what the Chief Justice asked and what it should/would achieve inspired the Notice to the Ministries. It is now for the Court to deem what is fit.

For more information on the Petition, AC can be reached at: abhiudaychandra@gmail.com.

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