A Full Bench of the Lahore High Court led by Mr. Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and comprising Justices Shahid Bilal Hassan and Muhammad Waheed Khan heard petitions challenging the vires of the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act, 2016 and the Seed (Amendment) Act, 2015.
Separate petitions had been filed by Sojhla for Social Change and Human-Voice, both civil society and farmers’ organizations, seeking to declare both laws in violation of farmers’ rights. It is alleged these laws were passed at the behest of multinational seed companies and not with the interest of Pakistani farmers in mind.
Ahmad Rafay Alam, counsel for Sojhla for Social Change, argued Parliament could not have passed legislation amending the Seed Act, 1976 as the Constitution envisages such legislation to be made by Provincial Assemblies. Similarly, Parliament exceeded its legislative jurisdiction in passing the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act, 1906 as this subject was not enumerated in the Federal Legislative List. He argued there was a democratic deficit in the legislation as they had been passed without hearing the voices of farmers. The petition by Sojhla for Social Change is supported by the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek.
Sheraz Zaka, counsel for Human Voice, submitted that farmers’ rights could not be sacrificed in the interest of multinational seed and food companies.
Pakistan is signatory to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which recognizes the enormous contribution of farmers in the conservation and development of plant genetic resources that constitute the basis of food and agriculture around the world. The Treaty requires contracting parties to take measures to protect and promote farmer’s rights. The petitioners argue the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act, 2016 ignores farmers’ rights and gives preference to multinational seed companies and corporate farming.
After hearing arguments, the Full Bench directed notice be issued to the Attorney General and adjourned the case for hearing