THE PROTECTION OF PLANT VARIETIES AND FARMERS RIGHTS ACT, 2001

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India being a signatory to the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), a part of WTO, it becomes obligatory to enact a municipal legislation in tune with the provisions of mentioned subject enumerated in the TRIPS Agreement. Eventually, the Act was formulated analogous to the provisions of TRIPS dealing with the rights of farmers and plant varieties. The Central Government, in 2001, enacted the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Right Act with 11 Chapters and 97 Sections, for the constitution of an effectual scheme for safeguarding plant varieties and also to care for the right of farmers and breeders of plants. The Act also aimed at the progression and cultivation of fresh diversities of plants. However, certain sections like S.2-S.13 and S.95-S.97 were made applicable only after November 2005.

The contribution of farmers in the conservation and improvement of the genetic resources of plants for the improvement of different types of plants and crops are to be given proper legal protection and consistent standards. The protection of the rights of breeders of plants is also essential for the development of agricultural sector and the creation of new varieties of plants through investments in research and experiments. The main object behind this legislation is to enhance the agricultural activities and the related industries.

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The ambit of legislation extends to seed industries and provide seeds of high quality and endow the farmers with sufficient raw materials. The Act refer to the term ‘breeder’ as a person, either individually or jointly or a farmer or farmers jointly or an establishment which is engaged in the activity of breeding or has grown any variety. Further, a farmer is a person engaged in the cultivation of crops either by himself or through any other person, directly controls such activity. Besides, it includes a person who protects and preserves different types of traditional plants and varieties of species. For the protection of plant varieties and the rights of farmers, the Central Government is empowered to constitute an authority with an independent existence like that of a corporate entity having similar powers of a civil court. The Act entrusts certain functions with the authority such as promote the creation of different varieties of plants, safeguard the rights of breeders and farmers, conditions for obtaining registration, maintain proper records related with the plant varieties and their peculiarities etc.

According to the provisions of the Act, an application shall be filed before the registrar with required norms where, the registrar shall fulfill the necessary procedures as prescribed and grant the certificate of registration to the concerned applicant. The validity of the certificate shall remain, in case of trees and vines for nine years and certain other crops for six years. With regard to the former it can be extended to eighteen years and for latter extension can be obtained for a period of fifteen years on remitting the fee prescribed for the purpose. Under Chapter VI of the Act, a farmer is entitled to certain rights which consist of right to obtain registration, where a farmer is involved in preserving land races which is of genetic resources such right shall be recognized, liberty to make use of the farm products and raw materials concerned in the specified manner etc. The Act also empowers the Central Government to establish a quasi judicial body, the Plant Varieties Protection Appellate Tribunal for settling disputes arising out of the decisions of authority or the registrar. The orders of the Tribunal are executable as a decree of the civil court. The Act confers power to the Central Government to formulate rules to implement the provisions of the Act.

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An overview of this legislation proves the importance of upgrading the agricultural industry by providing certain positive rights to the persons concerned. In addition, the Act fulfills the international norms and obligations as entrusted by the TRIPS Agreement towards the Signatories. Theoretically the Act fulfills the essential requisites but practically, it lacks consensus between the authorities and affected parties relating to special provisions for traditional knowledge and trade secrets as a part of intellectual property law.