Lessons by Shamnad Basheer -Nandini Khaitan

-The Indian Express

How an affable, erudite professor influenced everyone around him.

The first time I met Shamnad Basheer was at a patent conference in Mumbai in 2007. He was wearing a light-blue linen suit (always ahead of the curve, be it law or fashion), looking more a GQ model than a professor who had helped organise a first-of-its-kind patent conference in India. There was also an exhibition moot court to demonstrate patent arguments. After realising we were up against an IP genius, we did not feel bad about the complete defeat at his hands, despite the facts of the moot favouring our team. I was two years qualified and did not expect to be a blip on his radar much less expect an email from him, explaining the ideal arguments for both sides. When asked why he had taken the trouble, his reply was — “because everyone has potential”.

It was this passion that ignited what I think of as the “Law Spring” in the form of Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access (IDIA): A platform for making law an inclusive field and a tool for empowerment by training and funding students from underprivileged backgrounds for a career in law.

I remember a discussion with him on whether IDIA scholars should be mandated to work with the communities they came from. His view was an emphatic no. True empowerment, he said, comes from the freedom to make one’s own choices and not just funding someone’s education. IDIA scholar Karthika Annamalai is a fine example of this belief. On completing law school, she got recruited by a top law firm. In her words, she has lived two lives: “One, of village girl who grew up in a world of sadness and desperation, devoid of hope, and the other, of an educated and confident woman, who was given an amazing opportunity to aspire.”

Basheer remained committed to this belief, whether it was by intervening as an amicus in the Novartis case in the Supreme Court for access to medicines, or as a crusader protesting the compromise to privacy that Aadhaar posed in his view. Post the Novartis case, Basheer said he was happy with the operative part of the order (declining the patent) but sad that the order did not get the theory of patent law quite right. Ever the professor!

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The Indian Express, 13 August, 2019, https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/professor-shamnad-basheer-dead-law-5899557/

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