Here is an interview with Dilip G. Shah, Secretary-General of the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance. From the interview, it looks like Prof. Mashelkar was a member of two commissions whose conclusions are different from that of Mashelkar committee:

Two commissions have also examined this. First, the United Kingdom Commission on Intellectual Property Rights (CIPR). Dr. Mashelkar was a member. Secondly, the WHO set up a commission on the same subject. Dr. Mashelkar was a member of this also. The commissions came to the same conclusion: defining patentability is a flexibility provided in the TRIPS agreement.

And, on the plagiarism issue, in view of the above piece of information, Mr. Shaw says:

That is not the issue. The issue is intellectual honesty. If Dr. Mashelkar did not agree with what was written in the WHO report or the U.K. CIPR report, which stated that “developing countries should not be deprived of the flexibility of defining their own patent systems,” then why did he not record his dissent? Whether he quotes Shamnad Basheer or Frederick Abbot, that is not the issue.

I would tend to agree — plagiarism is an issue of scholarly ethics; however, to give two different answers to the same question in different reports is an altogether different (and, more serious) issue.

Here is one of the criticisms of Mr Shah about the committee recommendations:

…the report claims that Indian industry is capable of only incremental innovation. And as evidence for that, the Mashelkar group cites in Annexure IV of the report, 215 (not 339 as it would appear at first glance) patent applications for incremental innovations. But why are Indian companies doing this? If the U.S. permits incremental innovation and I am going to sell my product in the U.S., I will go by U.S. rules. So I will file applications for the U.S. market for incremental innovation. Concluding from this that incremental innovation is the only capability of the Indian industry is not true. It’s not true for the simple reason that companies do not want to make any claims today on where they stand on the development of a new molecule. They treat it as a trade secret. But we have enough evidence that the Indian industry has the capability for original research. Between 1998 and 2004 there were 60 molecules in the pipeline. Only if you ignore this data will you come to the conclusion that we can only do tweaking of molecules! And by using that argument you will only perpetuate tweaking of molecules. If you block that route, you push companies to go for high-end research.

Of course, I have argued along the same lines here:

Both the IPI report and the Mashelkar committee recommendations seem to take the view that Indian pharma industry is not capable of innovative research.

The Mashelkar committee report seems to indicate that it is in the national interest to allow incremental innovations since:

The group examined the current level and type of R&D innovations that the Indian drugs and Pharma industry was undertaking. Annexure IV and V provide some representative samples of international patents filed by the Indian industry. It is clearly seen that most of them are based on incremental inventions.

On the other hand, IPI report (page 48) is more direct:

It has been the case so far that most R&D activities that Indian firms engage in are minor modifications of pharmaceutical products developed in foreign (mainly western) countries, and that very little R&D effort has been devoted towards the development of any new drugs.

And, the footnote to the above sentence (in part), says:

… It is pertinent to note in this regard that, during the course of Parliamentary debates, Shri Kharabela Swain, a member of Parliament, opined that patents ought to be given for incremental innovations as Indian scientists did not have the know-how or capital to come up with new chemical entities, but do have the know how to make the improvements.

However, using the (in-)capabilities of the pharma industry for innovation to argue that incremental innovations should be allowed to be patented looks like a no-brainer to me. At some point or other, we have to innovate. So, why not now?

and here:

The report also says:

The group examined the current level and type of R&D innovations that the Indian drugs and Pharma industry was undertaking. Annexure IV and V provide some representative samples of international patents filed by the Indian industry. It is clearly seen that most of them are based on incremental inventions.

I found this argument specious — if incremental inventions are allowed to be patented, Indian industry might be using that provision. However, that does not mean that that is all they are good for. In fact, not allowing incremental inventions might actually help strengthen the Industry by forcing it to be more inventive.

Finally, Mr. Shaw thinks that the Government should close the chapter on the Mashelkar committee (which is a pragmatic move, as we noted earlier); further, he also thinks that the present IPR regime should be given some time, say five years to evaluate it before we change things. Makes sense to me!