NEW DELHI: In a first of its kind order that could have wide-ranging ramifications, the Uttarakhand High Court has directed Divya Pharmacy, an ayurvedic company run by Yoga guru Ramdev, to share a percentage of its profits with local farmers and communities, as part of the Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing (FEBS) objectives of the Biodiversity Act, 2002.
Divya Pharmacy had argued that the FEBS could be invoked only for foreign entities using biological resources in India. As Indian entities are regulated by state biodiversity boards, the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB) had directed Divya Pharmacy to share a portion of its profits with the local farmers, citing the Biological Diversity Act, but the pharmacy said the UBB had no right to do so.
The question then before the Uttarakhand High Court was whether the UBB could impose FEBS obligations over an Indian company.
Rejecting Divya Pharmacy’s position, Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia said: “Biological resources are definitely the property of a nation where they are geographically located, but these are also the property, in a manner of speaking, of the indigenous and local communities who have conserved it through centuries.”
The court said a plain and textual interpretation of the biodiversity Act would defeat the purpose for which the law was enacted. It also held that India was a party to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and was under obligation to give effect to the provisions of the treaty.