Explained: Intellectual property fights

The messy arrest and release of former Delhi University vice-chancellor on Tuesday in a ‘plagiarism’ case

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Published:November 27, 2014 2:41 am

What has Deepak Pental been accused of?
In 2009, P Pardha Saradhi, who now teaches in Delhi University’s Environmental Studies Centre, had filed a private complaint in a Delhi trial court accusing former DU Vice-Chancellor Deepak Pental of plagiarism. The complaint alleged Pental had plagiarised Saradhi’s work on genetically-modified Indian mustard, with help from a research scholar, KVSK Prasad, the other accused in the case.

What are the charges against Pental?
Since plagiarism per se is not defined as a penal offence, Saradhi sought Pental’s prosecution under charges of misappropriation, criminal breach of trust, cheating, forgery, use of stolen property, and for alleged mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy property. The last charge carries the maximum punishment of life in prison. Saradhi claimed that the research on GM mustard might lead to an explosion. The complaint also sought Pental’s prosecution under the Copyright Act for the alleged offence of infringement of copyright or other rights covered by the Act.

How did the case proceed?
The case dragged on before the Delhi trial court at a pre-summoning stage for almost four years. In November 2013, an additional chief metropolitan magistrate, following the testimony of Saradhi, summoned Pental. Pental sought exemption from personal appearance in November and again in July 2014 on different grounds. The court allowed him to appear through his counsel.

What happened on Tuesday? Why was he arrested?
Last month, Pental had moved a bail application after appearing in court. Further arguments on bail had been fixed for Tuesday. Half an hour into the argument, the judge said that since one of the charges against Pental could fetch a life term, his court might not be able to allow the bail application. As per the magistrate, the sessions court was empowered to deal with the bail application. At 12.45 pm, Pental was directed to be taken into custody, even as the order on the bail plea was reserved for 3 pm. Pental was sent to Tihar Jail from the trial court.

How did the Delhi High Court order his release?
Taken aback by the order to send Pental to jail without even deciding his bail plea, the former vice-chancellor’s counsel rushed to the Delhi High Court. Pental had already filed a petition in the High Court against the order to summon him. The High Court perused Saradhi’s complaint and also noted that the other accused in the case was still to be served with summons, and hence the case had not really advanced. It then suspended the magistrate’s order and directed the immediate release of Pental while asking him to appear in the trial court on the next date of hearing in February 2015. Interestingly, the magistrate, who had earlier maintained that his court might be lacking the power to grant Pental bail, also allowed his bail plea at 3 pm.

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