Dr. Kailash C. Bansal, a top scientist engaged in genetically modified (GM) food crops research have been found to forge patent claims to receive a national award. The national award that we are talking about is the prestigious Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Award which was instituted by Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in 1956 to provide incentives to research workers in India and to recognize their outstanding research work. Dr. Bansal received it for ‘outstanding research’ in transgenic crops for the year 2007-2008. The basis for this was that he was claiming that he had filed three patents for novel gene discovery including one on transgenic brinjal. But, the truth was that there was not any patent application or patent when he was awarded this award on 16th July, 2009.
Mail Today carried out an investigation and obtained documents under RTI. They found out that no application for patent was filed for brinjal discovery in October 2008 when Dr. Bansal was nominated for the award or in July 2009 when he was awarded the award. Dr. Bansal was a professor at the National Research Center on Plant Biotechnology (NRCPB) and he was also in charge of ICAR’s transgenic research programme which involved 20 institutes and yearly budget more than Rs 135 crores for that year.
High ranking official of ICAR not only ignored this patent mistake but also rewarded Dr. Bansal making him the director of National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGC) which is India’s plant gene bank. Dr. Bansal now holds the top position in the research hierarchy of the ICAR.
NRCPB’s Institute Technology Management Committee (ITMC), approves patent applications of scientists. ITMC had no knowledge about Dr. Bansal’s patent application until it was cited in award citation. And after the award was presented to Dr. Bansal in 2009, ITMC asked him about the patent application on 21st July, 2009 followed by a reminder after 10 days. On 5th August, 2009 Dr. Bansal replied stating that he had applied for the patent on 30th October, 2007 through a private law firm i.e. Corporate Law Group. But there was a mistake in that too, because the application no. that was given by Dr. Bansal belonged year 2009.
ITMC asked him to submit a copy of his patent application or receipt from Indian Patent Office of receiving the application. Dr. Bansal did not respond to the same and thus, ITMC reported the matter to ICAR in written.
Next part is more problematic as ICAR on receiving the report from ITMC didn’t took any action against Dr. Bansal but asked ITMC to regularize Bansal’s application in the Council’s interest. After this Mail Today went for their separate enquiry to Dr. Bansal and asked about the patent to which Dr. Bansal gave the same reference no. which was 1621/DEL/2009 for patent application but gave a different date of filing which he stated 27th July, 2007. This complicated this case more because Dr. Bansal has himself given the date of 30th October, 2007 to ITMC and the reference no. that he gave for the patent application was filed in the first week of August, 2009.
Even after all this have happened but no action has been taken against Dr. Bansal till now because he himself and his mentors hold very high positions in ICAR and they are using this as a tool to defend him
Dr. Bansal in an email response to Mail Today said:”I continue to be part of the ICAR system on the same campus and faculty of NRCPB.
Dr. Bansal’s boss in ICAR, Dr Swapan K. Datta, also echoed the same line, “ICAR has taken official response on this matter. Dr Bansal is still working within ICAR“. He did not reply when asked specifically what the official stand of the council was.
· The citation for Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Award awarded to Dr. K.C Bansal mentioned a patent application filed for transgenic brinjal.
· According to ITMC no such application was filed when award was given.
· After ITMC questioning, Dr. Bansal filed the patent application and that too when he was awarded.
· When ITMC reported the matter to ICAR, they didn’t take any action but asked ITMC to ‘regularize the application’.
· The dates given by Dr. Bansal for the reference no. 1621/DEL/2009 to ITMC and Mail Today were different and also the original filing date of the same was different from the dates given to ITMC and Mail Today.
· Even after such a big patent goof-up, Dr. Bansal was made head of NBPGC.
CONCLUSION (Better call them unanswered questions)
A normal question arises in the mind of all the people that why there was no action against Dr. Bansal even when such strong evidences are present against him. Another question is that why ICAR didn’t take any action after being reported on the matter by ITMC and why they are trying to defend Dr. Bansal. Would it have been same if Dr. Bansal didn’t held a position at ICAR or an action would have been taken up against him then, which is nowhere to be seen at the time. In this case not only Dr. Bansal but ICAR is also on the receiving end and they should answer the questions to Indian population.