The Indian Parliament passed the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 (hereinafter called BD Act 2002) on February 5, 2003, which seeks to address the preservation of biological diversity, long-term use of its constituents, and equitable distribution of the benefits derived from the use of biological resources occurring in the country, especially when biological resources are accessed for research, patents, transfer of results and commercial utilisation of biological resources. The principal Act has been drafted in pursuance to the country’s obligations under the United Nations’ 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, to which India is a signatory. The Act’s Preamble deems it important to provide for the protection, long-term sustainable use, and equal distribution of the advantages emerging from the use of biological resources, as well as to give effect to the aforementioned Convention. The objectives of the Act are to be effectuated with the aid of a decentralised three-tiered mechanism comprising the National Biodiversity Authority, the State Biodiversity Boards, and the Biodiversity Management Committees. Nearly twenty years after its enactment, an amendment to the Act was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 9th Dec, 2021, aims to address concerns raised by stakeholders representing Indian system of medicine sector, seed sector, industry sector and research sector.
In line with the demands raised by these interest groups the Amendment Bill seeks to inter alia (i) encourage cultivation of medicinal plants so as to reduce pressure on their wild variants; (ii) encourage Indian system of medicine; (iii) decriminalise certain provisions and (iv) encourage greater international investments in biological resources, including exploration, patenting, and commercialization, without jeopardising national interest.
On January 16, 2022, the Joint Parliamentary Committee invited suggestions and opinions on the Biodiversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021. In this regard, the CEERA has submitted its memorandum of suggestions to the JPC that highlights the pertinent changes introduced by the Amendment Bill, their implications and suggestions for changes. The Document submitted by CEERA to the JPC can be accessed at: https://ceerapub.nls.ac.in/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Biological-Diverity-Amendment-Bill-2021.pdf