Prathiba Singh's journey from a top IPR lawyer to a Permanent Judge in the Delhi High Court is full of milestones. She was a member of the IPR Think Tank which drafted India's National IPR Policy in 2015, member of the committee to amend the Copyright Act in 2012 and member of the Parliamentary Committee to amend the Patent Act in 2002. How powerful does she feel as a Judge? "It is humility combined with blessings to do justice. If I perceive it as power, I don't think I can do justice. This is a position of humility, not power," says Justice Singh, who became Permanent Judge of Delhi HC in May 2017.
The jury noted Justice Singh's judgement this February striking down an exclusion clause that allowed insurance firms to disallow compensation to patients with genetic disorders. The judgement held that even patients with genetic disorders can't be disallowed compensation. This was important as anyone with genetic disorders couldn't get a claim. The ruling struck down this exclusion and held that insurance is an integral part of the right to healthcare. The Supreme Court has since partially stayed the Delhi HC order.
Justice Singh earned her spurs as IPR lawyer and managing partner at law firm 'Singh & Singh' fighting some tricky cases. The most notable was being on the winning side with Cipla against innovator Novartis for Cipla's right to produce a generic version of Novartis's Glivec in India and sell it at one-tenth the price. "As an IP lawyer it was the high point of my career," says Justice Singh. "That case put India on the global IPR map. The judgement did not dilute the rights of innovators and balanced it with access to medicines."
Justice Singh derives equal satisfaction from her contribution to the National IPR Policy. But the one she considers equally fulfilling was her contribution to law-making in the early part of her career. "When the Patent Amendment Act was being considered in 2002 and the bill had come in 1999, I had picked two specific provisions to make my presentation. The main aspect I presented to the Parliamentary Committee was on protection of computer-related inventions. I had suggested a particular amendment and that finally got accepted for the Act," says Justice Singh.
What she rues is the reduced physical activity after she became a Judge. She understands a judge's perspective better now than she did as a lawyer. "You can use many advocacy skills to judge what is right and wrong. It's also easier to bring about settlements as judges," says Justice Singh.