Lawyer Profiles I: The Case of Counterfeit Bottles and Spurious Medicines

In Bottled Water Processors Association v. Union of India, [Writ Petition (C) No. 11672 of 2009] Hon’ble Justice S. Muralidhar found, “considering water borne diseases are on the increase during summer months, time is of the essence”. Many summers have gone by. The Task Force, ordered to be constituted, for cracking down on units manufacturing and selling packaged drinking water, without a license and without a BIS Certification Mark, is a grim fairy tale. Counterfeit Water Bottle Units are operating in the NCR, illegally using labels of 64 Licensed Manufacturers. Measures like checks and inspections have failed to address the problem. A pragmatic solution perhaps lies in adopting a preemptive approach besides continuing with the existing corrective approach.

Gaborian holograms have evolved in appearance and usage. Hologram labels are easy to use and are a very cost effective solution against duplication. It was 9 years ago that the Central Marks Department had had the foresight to introduce marking through holograms on packaged drinking water. Licensees have not had the maturity to comply.

Recently in Dr. Satish Chandra v. Union of India & Ors. [Writ Petition (C) 7260 of 2015] directions were prayed for purposes of ensuring stringent action against Unlicensed Producers/Manufacturers of packaged drinking water and formulation of anti-counterfeit, tamper evident, trackable hologram packaging standards.

TLW spoke to the Arguing and Filing Counsel, Mr. Abhiuday Chandra [“AC”].

AC: This is not merely about counterfeit water bottles. It is also about spurious medicines. The Drug Controller of India has said it is increasingly difficult to spot fakes. A Committee set up by the Indian Ministry of Health has approved a proposal to put 2D barcodes on pill strips. The proposed rule for 2D barcodes on a medicine strip does not really prevent duplication.

As regards counterfeit water bottles, a hologram seal that breaks on opening the lid and bears on it a barcode number, which can be tracked through SMS or a smartphone is what is being aimed for. For liquor bottles, some States have already introduced breakable hologram seals to check counterfeiting. It is a pity that that isn’t the case for packaged drinking water. The merely directory ‘crush after use’ mandate, as provided for in The Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955 is surely not proving enough.

AC can be reached at: abhiudaychandra@gmail.com.