Noted legal expert Shamnad Basheer was found dead on Thursday near Bababundangiri in Chikkamagaluru in central Karnataka. He was 43. Shamnad's colleague from the Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access to Legal Education (IDIA), an organisation Shamnad founded, confirmed the news of his demise.
Shamnad’s colleague told TNM that Shamnad normally travels to Bababundangiri, a hilly range, on silent retreats. Though he was supposed to return to Bengaluru on August 5, he remained incommunicado. On Wednesday, his colleagues started searching for him. On Thursday, they found his dead body inside his car. His colleagues fear that he may have asphyxiated two days ago. A colleague told TNM that there were roadblocks due to landslides and Shamnad may have sat in the car waiting for help. The body could not be retrieved for many hours, and was taken out only after 7.45 pm on Thursday.
Superintendent of Police of Chikkamagaluru Harish Pandey told TNM that they don't suspect any foul play as of now. "He may have slept off in the car, and left the heater on. There was a key in the ignition. He had been incommunicado for five days. We mounted a search last night but could not find the car. Today we made a detailed search. There is dense fog and one can't see anything," he said.
Shamnad, a luminary in IP (intellectual property) rights, shot into the limelight after he argued against Swiss drugmaker Novartis which was seeking a patent for their drug Glivec, used to treat cancer patients, in 2012. At the time, other drugmakers in the country were selling a generic form of the drug at a cheaper rate. According to Legally India, this was the first such academic intervention in the court of law in India.
Later, he founded the IDIA, which empowered students from lower socio-economic backgrounds to pursue a career in law. He even filed a PIL in the Supreme Court, in which he brought up issues related to the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) for entrance to National Law Schools. He was currently engaged in a case at the Delhi High Court establishing a case for Common Law Admission Test for entrance to National Law Schools, said Live Law. The case was filed by him on behalf of P-PIL (Promoting Public Interest Lawyering), an organisation he founded that is an informal coalition of lawyers and law students to further the cause of public interest through the instrumentality of the law.
He was also the founder of SpicyIP, a blog on intellectual property (IP) and innovation laws and policy. He founded the website in 2005.
He and a team of disability activists have also been credited for one of the most progressive provisions in copyright law — that permits copyrighted work to be converted in order to be accessible to persons with disabilities without copyright infringement.
A graduate from National Law School of India University, Bengaluru he finished his Masters from the University of Oxford and completed his M Phil with distinction.
Shamnad was working as the Ministry of Human Resource Development Chaired Professor of Intellectual Property Law at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata since 2008. He was also acting as a visiting professor for George Washington University Law School and a research associate at the Oxford Intellectual Property Research Center (OIPRC).
In 2014 he was awarded the Infosys Science Foundation Prize.
Bar and Bench reported that he was named among the 50 global IP leaders “who are shaping the future of intellectual property” by the Managing Intellectual Property magazine.
Many in the legal fraternity mourned Shamnad’s death, and called him an “inspiration” and called his contribution to the legal field "unmatched".
Devastated to hear that Prof. Shamnad Basheer, @shamnad, who was a friend and mentor to many of us, and just an all-round brilliant human being, has passed away in an accident. Just devastated, and at a loss for words. https://t.co/oDnzg1oouC— Pranesh Prakash (@pranesh) August 8, 2019
Extremely saddened to hear the news of Prof Shamnad Basheer's death. Hundreds of law students will forever be indebted to him. 43 is no age to be gone!— Apurva Vishwanath (@apurva_hv) August 8, 2019
This is a huge loss. Shamnad showed through everything he did that it was possible to be an ethical lawyer and a wonderful human being. Shamnad Basheer was an inspiration. We are all poorer in his absence. https://t.co/6bLrlt4mj0— Rohit (@itihaasnaama) August 8, 2019
Shocked and pained to hear abt the untimely death of Prof @shamnad Basheer in an accident. His contribution to the legal field is unmatched particularly through @IDIALaw & @SpicyIP. I hope someone takes the baton of @IDIALaw forward to help underprivileged venture into law. pic.twitter.com/aulNwEi8zq— Abhishek Dubey (@abhishekcdubey) August 8, 2019
I am shocked beyond words to hear that Prof. Shamnad Basheer has passed away in a tragic accident. His fight for the rights of underprivileged students & their access to legal education cannot be forgotten. It's an irreparable loss to the entire legal fraternity.— Jay Sayta (@jnsayta) August 8, 2019
Still processing this. Words cannot describe what a sad loss this is for us all. @shamnad was an inspiring mentor and colleague, a brilliant academic & a compassionate human being. He did a massive amount for making legal education more accessible. RIP. https://t.co/HAZU9gax4a— Arushi Garg (@arushigarg90) August 8, 2019
The disability sector in India is richer for Shamnad Basheer's contributions - his support to the work around the Copyright Law Amendment for accessibility of published works, and the inclusion of young lawyers with disability in the IDIA programme. Rest in power, Shamnad.— Amba (she/her) (@MumbaiCentral) August 8, 2019