Senior leader Jairam Ramesh has expressed concern over the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021. The bill is in the final stages of consultations in the Joint Parliamentary Committee.
- It was introduced in Parliament in December 2021 by Union Environment Minister and was referred to the Joint Parliamentary Committee.
- The Bill amends the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 to simplify compliance requirements for domestic companies.
What are the concerns?
Exemption given to AYUSH practitioners –
- The Bill seeks to exempt registered AYUSH medical practitioners and people accessing codified traditional knowledge, among others, from giving prior intimation to State biodiversity boards for accessing biological resources for certain purposes.
- Jairam Ramesh questioned the exemption given to AYUSH practitioners from the provisions of the law.
- As per him, this exemption could open the law for abuse.
Artificial distinction between company and AYUSH practitioner created –
- The Ministry is drawing a distinction between a registered AYUSH practitioner and a company by exempting the former from the Act.
- This is an artificial distinction since the registered AYUSH practitioner may well be having informal links with a collective [family or otherwise], which may or may not have a company structure.
- This may well open doors for large-scale exemptions.
Distinction made between cultivated biodiversity and forest-based biodiversity –
- He also sounded an alarm on the distinction made in the law between cultivated biodiversity and forest-based biodiversity.
- It is not at all clear what the basis for this distinction will be and whether it can be sustained in practice.
Diluting the authority of the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) –
- As per Mr Ramesh, multiple provisions of the Bill are aimed at diluting the authority of the National Biodiversity Authority.
- The appointment of 16 ex-officio officers of the Government of India is one such.
- Also, the new bill provides that the NBA approval is required only at the time of commercialisation of a patent and not at the time of application for a patent.
- Analysts believe the NBA approval at the time of commercialisation will be reduced to a formality and will become a fait accompli.
About Biological Diversity Act, 2002 –
- Pursuant to the Convention on Biodiversity, India enacted the Biological Diversity Act in 2002, and notified Biological Diversity Rules in 2004, to give effect to the provisions of this Convention. The Act is implemented through a three-tiered institutional structure at the national, state and local levels.
- The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) has been set up in October, 2003 in Chennai. As per Section 8(4) of the Act, the NBA consists of a Chairperson, five non-official and ten ex-officio members to be appointed by the Central Government to represent various Ministries.
- The vision of NBA is the conservation and sustainable use of India’s rich biodiversity and associated knowledge with peoples participation, ensuring the process of benefit sharing for well being of present and future generations.
- The mission of NBA is to ensure effective implementation of Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and the Biological Diversity Rules 2004 for conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use of its components and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of utilisation of genetic resources.
- The NBA inter-alia deals with all matters relating to requests for access by foreign individuals, institutions or companies, and transfer of results of research to any foreigner.
- The State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs) constituted by the State Governments deal with all matters relating to access by Indians for commercial purposes.
- The institutions of self-governments are required to set up Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) in their respective areas for conservation, sustainable use, documentation of biodiversity and chronicling of knowledge related to biodiversity.