CJI Alerts Indians to misuse of traditional knowledge

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New Delhi, Apr 29 (UNI) Alerting Indians to misuse of their traditional knowledge, Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan has called for a national registry to comprehensively list what needs protecting.

''India does not even possess a complete catalogue or a full knowledge of the many different expressions of traditional knowledge it possess,'' Justice Balakrishnan noted at a seminar on Safeguarding Indian Traditional Knowledge late evening.

The CJI stressed having a ''National Registry'' so as to obtain ''a fairly comprehensive knowledge'' of what has to be protected.

He suggested steps to prevent erosion of traditions, stimulate innovation and creativity based on such knowledge and protect traditional innovators' dignity and moral rights.

He also suggested adopting a legal scheme which allows a community to offer traditional knowledge for public use and receive equitable remuneration or benefits in case of private commercial use.

Noting how meetings on protecting traditional knowledge are seldom attended by its possessors-- healers, village elders, Justice Balakrishnan stressed setting up a body ''representing the community concerned.'' ''Interestingly, whenever an intellectual gathering or academic deliberation regarding these issues does occur, it does not include the participation of the very people whose knowledge we are striving to protect-- traditional practitioners, cultural healers, village elders and the like.

''It is important, therefore, that the rhetoric and discourse for protecting and safeguarding traditional knowledge be cast in terms of the indigenous peoples' world views and not only from the perspective of intellectuals and academics.'' He reminded that such people see their very existence as linked to such knowledge, and for them practice and protection of traditional knowledge is more an assertion of self-determination than anything else.

''The foremost need, therefore, is to establish a body representing the community concerned and the relevant sectors of civil society to balance the competing interests of access and control of traditional knowledge.'' The event was organised by Asia Pacific Jurist Association presided over by Punjab and Haryana Chief Justice Vijender Jain, who emphasised reinforcing ''our indigenous entitlements'' through the framework of law.

Justice Jain said the matter touches not only products and knowledge, but the cultural lineage as well as socio-economic aspects of the generations that nurtured and carried them to the present status.

''If we condemn our past, we are likely to doom our future as well. If we fail to protect them, our inheritance is being lost and the essence and beauty of our culture get trampled upon.'' Speakers included two experts, Dr Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign, and Dr Philippe Cullet of the International Environmental Law Research Centre in Switzerland.

According to Dr Sahai, global treaties on indigenous knowledge are often ''not binding.'' For instance, the International Labour Organisation's convention 169, which talks a lot about legal standards for indigenous rights, ''fails to protect the intellectual property rights of indigenous people.'' UNI MJ HS RAI1024

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