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Shamnad Basheer (1976–2019)

Remembering a Legal Luminary

A former student recalls the generosity, vision and philosophical theses of lawyer and scholar Shamnad Basheer.

Shamnad Basheer—Infosys Prize winner, intellectual property lawyer, legal researcher, activist, academic and institution builder—passed away in August 2019 at the age of 43. After completing his education at the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore, and the University of Oxford, Basheer intervened in high-profile intellectual property cases involving pharmaceutical giants, such as Novartis and Bayer, in the Supreme Court of India to make the generic forms of patented drugs accessible to the general public. He founded the non-profit Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access (IDIA) that supported students from socially and economically marginalised communities in pursuing a career in law and the juridical sciences. In his widely read and oft-quoted blog SpicyIP, Basheer dissected the intimidating field of intellectual property laws into easily accessible legal principles.

I first met Basheer when I was a graduate student of Public Policy at the NLSIU, Bangalore. Basheer waltzed into his first lecture amid an excited murmur from the few of us who had registered for the course titled “Intellectual Property Laws in Public Health.” Within the first 10 minutes, he deftly sketched the contours of a case law that had taken hours for us to prepare. Stopping suddenly, with a twinkle in his eyes, he dared us to argue against him. There was a stunned silence because we were barely following him, much less thinking of firing the first salvo! Basheer then asked us to forget law and think of one good argument against the case from the vantage point of the basic undergraduate degree we had studied. Since the class had a multidisciplinary composition, a science graduate deconstructed the chemistry of a molecule on the black board, yet another made an economic argument, and somebody else quoted poetry. In front of the grand jury of Professor Basheer, all three arguments had merit!

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Updated On : 30th Sep, 2019

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