Today, Mashelkar resigned from the 'Technical Expert Committee'. In doing so, he has chosen to take cheapshots at his critics:
In a letter faxed to Industrial Policy and Promotion Secretary Ajay Dua, Mashelkar said he was "deeply pained by the fact that doubts, explicit or implicit", have been expressed about his "integrity, competence and motives".
In the light of "personalised attack", Mashelkar said he was relinquishing the position of Committee Chairman and had dissociated completely from the technical expert group on patent law issues.
In choosing to highlight the 'personalised attacks', Mashelkar does serious disservice to those who have used substantive arguments to criticize the Panel's report. Even though plagiarism was the initial trigger, the report has been slammed more for its anemic and poor quality analysis. As Dwijen Rangnekar points out in this EPW article:
... [The Mashelkar Panel report] couches its recommendations in hesitant tones. For instance, in paragraph 5.6 it says that the proposed exclusion is "likely" to contravene India's obligations under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement and proceeds to acknowledge the "perception that even the current provisions of the Patents Act could be held to be TRIPS-non-compliant." Unfortunately, we are neither told why this is "likely" nor whose "perceptions" were considered.
For a more scathing evaluation -- but very much within the realm of professional trashing of a report in the public domain -- take a look at what Graham Dutfield has to say:
Frankly, the Mashelkar report is absolute rubbish and should be trashed completely. And not because of the particular conclusions it came up with. It would not have been a better quality report if the conclusions had been the other way. One wonders how much time these committee members spent on a report that they were apparently given 1-2 years to produce, and that is so feeble. These people plagiarised 14 lines of Shamnad Basheer's paper plus 22 lines comprising a slight "repackaging" of the definitions of micro-organism compiled from the literature by Margaret Llewelyn and Mike Adcock for the Quaker UN Office as presented (and correctly cited) in Basheer's report. That=92s my count but I may have missed more than this. So that is 36 lines from, well, not a 56 page report as the Indian press tends to state, but one that just about stretches to 10 pages excluding annexes. As for Annex 5, this seems to have been put together by a Brazilian law firm. But thankfully they are named, so the committee is at least in the clear there from accusations of plagiarism.
They were so unprofessional and incompetent that that couldn=92t even do a proper table of contents, with the section numbering going from page 2 to 4, back to 2, 10, 15, back again to 2, and then 8-53. If this came from my students as "finished" work, I would throw it back at them. But the audience is not me or a couple of PhD examiners: it's the government and people of India. How can they look at themselves with pride when they are so sloppy even about the most basic report writing tasks?
Let's now look into the text. Some of these problems were pointed out to me by my student Rajesh Sagar but I have gone through it all myself too. On page 2 they refer to themselves as an Expert Group. I shall resist the temptation for cheap sarcasm and move on. Suffice it to say, this report displays little genuine expertise.
On page 4, the first paragraph repeats what is on page 2. This means that section 1.0 (Background) and 2.0 (Approach) contain the same text, albeit 2.0 adds the names and job titles of these eminences. After this it hardly gets better.
On page 5, Annex II promises to summarise patenting practices relating to new chemical entities and micro-organisms in some countries. For NCEs, it summarises that of just one country, the USA. As for micro-organisms, the number of countries covered isn't at all great. Such information is very easy to get. Apparently they could not be bothered to go find it. That's poor.
Page 5 also promises to provide a summary of the various submissions and presentations. Well, there are quite a few of those submissions and presentations. In fact, they form the greater part of the whole report. But there is little if anything in the way of synthesis or analysis of these. One wonders how and in what way they influenced the thinking of the commissioners. Or are they just there for window dressing?
On page 6, the report chooses not to say anything about new medical entities except to note they are not mentioned in TRIPS. Is that not a missed opportunity and a failure to fully comply with the terms of reference? Looks like a cop-out to me.
I understand Professor Mashelkar is a very distinguished scientist. Nonetheless, this is much more than just a "slip -- in the rush of the last working day", as he called it. Having said that, this report minus annexes could have been written by five reasonably hardworking people in one day quite easily! As for his talk of "technical inaccuracies", that's an incredible euphemism for plagiarism; rather like Janet Jackson's notorious "wardrobe malfunction" for what others might call "indecent exposure"!
Finally, the whole report looks very suspicious to me. My guess is that the conclusions had been decided on from the start. This would explain their total disinterest in producing any original and objective legal and technical evidence to support those conclusions. I think they just couldn't be bothered. Therein lies the real scandal of this affair, not the plagiarism.
I am willing to concede that a sensitive soul might take the sentence -- "My guess is that ... " -- in the last paragraph as bordering on the personal (and also that Dutfield has other grouses with Mashelkar); but the rest of it is just good solid fisking! To focus on the 'personalised attacks' so exclusively as to ignore the substantive critique is also a form of cheating.
Under the circumstances, the only right response would be "I goofed. Big Time. I'm sorry." It is clear that Mashelkar is not willing to say it.