IDIA founder Shamnad Basheer found dead in Chikkamagaluru

Johnson T A, Apurva Vishwanath
Professor Shamnad Basheer

Professor Shamnad Basheer, legal scholar and founder of Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access (IDIA), a non-profit that helped underprivileged students gain access to legal education, was found dead in his car near Bababudanagiri Hills in Chikkamagaluru district of Karnataka on Thursday.

The 43-year-old academic, who specialised in intellectual property rights, had been missing for around four days.

We are waiting for the post-mortem to be done to obtain clarity on the death. Foul play is being ruled out because the car was locked from the inside and the key was in the ignition, Chikkamagaluru SP Harish Pandey said.

Basheer often drove alone to Chikkamagaluru, some 300 km from Bengaluru, police said. The post-mortem is expected to be conducted on Friday.

The scholar s car was parked in a safe place away from the road, but despite search parties looking in the region on Wednesday, the car was not spotted due to thick fog, police said. The car was parked with the engine and heater switched on, and this may have caused suicidal or accidental death, sources said. The police are also investigating if Basheer was on medication for an illness.

Basheer founded IDIA in 2010. Described as the Super 30 for law students, the organisation helped students from rural and disadvantaged backgrounds crack entrance exams for law schools. Basheer hoped that legal education for students from such backgrounds would not only empower them but also bring persity in courts.

It saddens us to inform you that our founder Prof Shamnad Basheer has passed away. Each of us not only grieves at the passing of such a tremendous inpidual but also for the loss the IDIA family suffers. IDIA will continue to carry forward his legacy and work, IDIA said on its Twitter account.

A graduate of National Law School of India University, Bangalore, Basheer was a Frank H Marks Visiting Associate Professor of Intellectual Property (IP) Law at the George Washington University law school in Washington DC. In 2008 he was appointed the first Ministry of Human Resource Development Chaired Professor in IP law.

He routinely intervened in court cases relating to IP rights, including the landmark case on compulsory licensing of patents in which the Supreme Court rejected multinational pharma major Novartis plea to patent its cancer drug Glivec.

In 2014, Basheer was awarded the Infosys Science Foundation Prize for his contribution to the field of research in humanities. He also ran SpicyIP, a popular blog on IP.

He was always full of ideas. His contribution to law and particularly IP law inspired many students and practitioners alike. I was to represent him in a case but unfortunately, he has left us before I could begin arguments, said senior advocate Anand Grover.

He was like a father to me. IDIA supported us not just financially but like a family, they stood with each one of us through difficult times, said Raghavendra Khichi, an IDIA scholar and student of Gujarat National Law University.

Khichi s father, a driver in Jodhpur, earns Rs 9,000 a month. It was virtually impossible for him to get a student loan, and IDIA helped him with college fees and mentoring, Khichi said.

IDIA scholars who graduated from law schools have been appointed judges.