This article has been authored by Ritesha Das, pursuing BBA LLB from Symbiosis Hyderabad. The article aims to outline various spectrums of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
The ecosystem is an entangled network of biotic and abiotic components that are intertwined together. All species such as plants, animals and micro-organisms falls under the category of biotic elements. The non-living organisms such as soil, water, environment etc, being crucial for the survival of life are the part of abiotic components. Flora and fauna are the most engrossing components among all the biotic elements. In simple terms, the word flora alludes to every plant life whereas the terminology of fauna corresponds to every animal life.
The equilibrium of the ecosystem is at extreme risk with the demolition of forests resulting in numerous natural disasters all over the world. The progressive dwindle of wild animals like Asiatic Cheetah, Indian rhinoceros, pink-headed duck etc elucidates the need of enactment of a stringent legislation for the protection of the wildlife in India.
The Wild Life Act of 1972 was approved in Parliament of India on 21 August 1972 and was subsequently enforced on 9 September 1972. It preserves the specified species of flora and fauna and maintains a web of protected areas which are of ecological significance. The Act is segmented into 60 sections and 6 schedules. According to Section 2 of the Act, ‘wildlife’ includes any animal, bees butterflies, crustacean, fish and moths; and aquatic or land vegetation which forms part of any habitat. So the meaning of the wildlife in this Act is very wide and inclusive of all kinds of flora and fauna.[i] The Wildlife Protection Act 1972 authorizes central and state governments to designate any area a wildlife sanctuary or a national park, or a protected forest. Any commercial development within these protected areas is completely forbidden. It not only facilitates the administration and application of the Act by authorities but also controls the hunting and poaching of wild animals. This act also preserves the listed trees, sanctuaries, national parks and protected areas; prohibits trade or trafficking of wild animals or articles of animals; and other concerns.
The Act underwent through a series of amendments. The amendment to the Wildlife Protection Act in 1982 has incorporated various provisions allowing the capture and transfer of wild animals for the scientific management of the population of animals. The amendment of 1991 contributed to the addition of special chapters dealing with the protection of listed plants and the monitoring of zoos. The needs and interests of tribal and forest communities were also identified and modifications were made to facilitate their welfare. The amendment to the Wildlife Protection Act in 2002 introduced a new chapter to deal with the confiscation of illegal hunting and trade property. In addition, this amendment also established the notion of cooperative management through the Conservation Reserve Management Committee and the Community Reserve Committee.
OBJECTIVES OF WILDLIFE PROTECTION ACT, 1872
The primary objectives of the Wild Life Protection Act of 1872 are:
- To preserve the diversity of the country’s flora and fauna by developing a stable ecological environment.
- To ban the hunting and poaching of wild animals, bird species, etc. by enforcing punishments for abusing the laws and regulations and also to satisfy the various purposes of this Act by adequately regulate the activities of human beings.
- To provide shelter and care for the animals that are not at risk but need safety and security.
- To protect the specific animals that can are hunted frequently like ducks, deer, etc. The hunter must get a license from the District Officer in order to hunt these species. If the license is granted, the hunter will receive a restricted area for a limited period of time to hunt the animals. Any acts resulting in infringements will amount to cancellation of the license.
- To empower officers for punishing the guilty person according to this Act.
- Planting trees and constructing safe animal reserves in order to preserve these species in environmental and natural habitats.
- Creation of Wildlife Advisory Boards, the Wildlife Warden and the appointment of members with their duties and powers.
- To endorse the implementation of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere National Component, 1971.
- To allow and regulate the trade and commerce of certain animals by issuing a license to possess, export and transfer those endangered species.
- To impose a ban on trade and exchange of certain protected species.
COMPOSITION OF AUTHORITIES
The authority to appoint the Director of Wildlife Preservation, the Assistant Director of Wildlife Preservation and other officers is vested to the Central government. [ii]The authority to appoint Chief Wildlife Warden, Wildlife Warden, Honorary Wildlife Wardens and other officers and staffs can be delegated to the State government.[iii] The Governments of the State and the Administrators of Union Territories shall constitute a Wildlife Advisory Board.[iv]
- Wildlife Advisory Board
It shall be composed of the minister in charge for forests in the jurisdiction of the State or of the Union as Chairman. If there is no such minister, the Chief Secretary shall be the Chairman of the Board. The other members shall comprise of 2 members of the state legislature or the Legislature of the Union Territory, the Secretary of the Government of the State or the Central Government, in charge of forests; the Forest Officer in charge of the State Forestry Department; the Officer nominated by the Director of Wildlife Preservation; the Chief Wildlife Officer; State Government Officers not more than 5 and such other persons, not more than 10, who in the opinion of the state government and are interested in the protection of wildlife, including the representatives of tribal. [v]It is mandatory to set up a Wildlife Advisory Board in each of the States and Union Territories.[vi]
The Wildlife Advisory Board was primarily consisted to give recommendations to the state government on the following issues:
- Identifying and maintaining grounds to be designated as sanctuaries, national parks and closed areas.
- The development of a conceptual framework for the protection and conservation of biodiversity and identified plants.
- In the matters pertaining to the alteration of any schedule.
- In accordance with the steps required for the harmonization with wildlife protection and conservation of the needs of tribals and other forest inhabitants.
- In the matters concerning the protection of wildlife which may be alluded to it by the Government of the State.
PROTECTION OF SPECIFIED PLANTS AND ANIMALS
This Act forbids the aggregation, uprooting, etc of listed the plants. According to Section-17 of Wildlife Protection Act of 1872, no person shall intentionally gather, uproot, destroy, acquire or collect any specified plant from any forest land and area specified by the notification of the Central Government. It also forbids the possession or sale or transfer by way of remittance or transport of any specified plant subjected to the permission of the Chief Wildlife Warden. In accordance with the provisions of Chapter IV of this act, this section is exempted for a member of a scheduled tribe from picking up or collecting or owning any specified plant or part or derivative of it for its bonafide personal use in the district in which he resides.
This act has also forbidden hunting and poaching of wild animals. Any person hunting any wild animal shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of up to three years or a fine which may be extended to Rs. 25000 or both. However, the offence is committed in the sanctuary or national park with respect to any animal listed in schedule 1, the person shall be punished with imprisonment not less than 1 year and with a fine not less than Rs 5000.[vii]
The Chief Wildlife Warden has the discretion to permit the hunting of animals in the following cases:
- If the wild animal has become dangerous to human life or the disability and ailment of the animal is beyond recovery.
- If the wild animal is killed or wounded in good faith of any wild animal in defence of oneself or any other. But it will not immune any person committing any act in contravention of any provision of this Act or of any law or order. For eg, Exerting unreasonable amount of force for killing an animal in absence of necessity.
- For the purpose of education, scientific research, scientific management and manufacturing of medicinal drugs.
NATIONAL PARKS AND WILDLIFE SANCTUARIES
- By the official notification, an area may be declared as a national park by the State government if it recognizes that such area is appropriate for the establishment of a national park and the development of wildlife because of its ecological, faunal, floral or zoological association. The notice will also specify the limitations of the area to be designated a National Park.
- If a zone is to be designated a national park, it shall account for the investigation and assessment of charges and claims in respect of the area concerned. After the expiry of time duration for the claims, if any claims have been made in respect of the premises in question have been disposed of by the Government of the State; all rights and powers over the area or the zone to be deemed a national park shall be conferred on the Government of the State.
- It is not possible to alter the bounds of a National Park unless a resolution has been passed by the state legislature.
- No individual can destroy or harm or abuse or remove any species of wildlife in the National Park unless he is authorized by the Chief Wildlife Warden. The Chief Wildlife Wardens can issue certain licenses to the individual concerned only if the Government of the State is convinced that such demolition, harm or exploitation is essential for the maintenance and conservation of wildlife in the National Park.
- The livestock grazing in the restricted area of the National Park is not permissible unless the person has the permission to enter such a National Park and is using such an animal as a vehicle.
In the case of Animal and Environment Legal Defence Fund Vs. Union of India, [viii]the petitioners questioned the legality of the awarding of fishing licenses to 305 tribal families in the reservoirs of Pench National Park. However, the Supreme Court adopted a humanitarian approach, bearing in mind economic sustainability and environmental protection. The Supreme Court ordered the forest authorities and the wildlife authorities to take effective steps to protect the environment and to monitor villagers at the same time. The villagers were also directed not to enter other areas other than the reservoir.
According to Section 18, the State Government has the authority to declare its intention for constituting an area other than areas comprised of any reserve forest or the territorial waters as a sanctuary if it considers that such area is of adequate ecological, faunal, floral, natural or zoological significance for the purpose of protecting, propagating or developing wildlife or its environment. No one is allowed to enter or reside within the limits of the sanctuary other than the public servant on duty except:
- The person authorized by Chief Wildlife Warden or any designated officer to live within the limits of the sanctuary. The Chief Wildlife Warden may grant permission to enter or reside in a sanctuary for the following purposes;
a) Investigation or study of wildlife and any purpose ancillary
- Scientific Research
- Transaction of lawful business with any person in the sanctuary.
- The person having the legal right to immovable property within the boundaries of the sanctuary.
- The dependents of the designated officer and also the person passing through the sanctuary on the highway.
- The dependents of the person who is entitled to real estate or the dependents of a person who stays in the sanctuary. [ix]
The grant of permission could be subjected to other conditions and even to payment of fees under this Act[x]. No person is allowed to place, kindle or leave any fire burning in the sanctuary. Moreover, the dangerous weapons, explosives, hazardous chemicals etc are prohibited in the sanctuary. Damage, demolition, molestation of any wild animal and alteration of the boundaries of wildlife sanctuary are strictly prohibited.
The person residing within the limits of the sanctuary is bound to help in finding the offender, report the death of any wild animal, assist the forest officer or chief wildlife warden or police officer in investigation of the offence and also to take the charge of such an animal if any kind of offence is committed against the act until the Chief Wildlife Warden takes the charge.
In the case of Pradeep Krishen vs. Union of India,[xi] the petitioner challenged M.P government’s order by which authorization was granted to the villagers living near the sanctuaries and national parks to gather tendu leaves through contractors. In the condition of M.P. 11 areas have been declared sanctuaries and national parks covering approximately 12.4 per cent of the total forest cover in the M.P. The petitioner claimed that a number of trees in these areas had been destroyed as a result of the villagers’ entry. The Supreme Court ordered the Madhya Pradesh Government to take immediate action to prevent farmers and tribals from accessing national parks and sanctuaries.
TRADE AND COMMERCE IN ANIMALS, ANIMAL ARTICLES AND TROPHIES
The term trophy means the preservation or retaining of whole or any part of an animal. For example, horn, rhinoceros horn, feather, nail, tooth, musk, eggs etc. Section-39 of the Act specifies that any wild animal other than vermin that is hunted, captured or bred in captivity or found dead or accidentally killed is the property of the State government. Similarly, wildlife articles, specimen or unused trophy, meat obtained from any wild animal, ivory imported into India, the object made from such ivory, vehicle vessel arms, trap or device used to commit an offence and confiscated shall be the property of the State Government.
In the case of Babran Kumawat vs. Union of India[xii] the petitioner was the manufacturer of Mammoth ivory. The applicant was the maker of Mammut Ivory. Throughout Alaska and Siberia, the mammoth species had already died due to climatic conditions. The problem may be regarded as an imported ivory under the 1991 Amendment Act. The Supreme Court ruled that the 1991 amendment restricted all representations of the trade in ivory. It may be an ivory elephant or mammoth ivory. The petitioner can not, therefore, continue to trade in elephant ivory.
- A person has no right to sell or offer to sell any wild animal mentioned in Schedule 1 or in Schedule 2 by way of selling or donation in absence of possession of the certificate of ownership. They shall not yield any article which comprises the whole or any part of the animal or body and should not participate in the taxidermy process unless authorized by the Chief Wildlife Warden.
- If a person moves from one state to another and obtains by transferring any animal article, trophy or uncured trophy from the state in which he used to reside earlier. This transfer will be reported to the Chief Wildlife Warden or other designated officer whose authority the transition took place within thirty days. No individual should participate in any transfer act or trophy of any animal or animal object without the possession of the certificate of ownership.
- The Chief Wildlife Warden should undergo through a proper enquiry while issuing the certificate and shall investigate the ownership of the previous certificate before issuing it to the new owner. He can also affix an identification symbol on the body of the uncured trophy or animal article.[xiii]
PUNISHMENTS UNDER WILDLIFE PROTECTION ACT, 1872
The offences committed in relation to any animal listed in Schedule I or Schedule. II shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall be more than one year and may extend to six years which may include fine of minimum five thousand rupees. The punishments for the offences related to possession of the animal article, trophy, hunting or altering the boundaries of a sanctuary or a National Park etc remains the same unless a subsequent offence of same nature has been committed. Under such subsequent offences, the minimum term may extend to two years and the amount of fine shall not be less than ten thousand rupees. The punishment for infringing the provisions of ‘Prohibition of Trade or Commerce in Trophies, Animal Articles and Animals’ shall be imprisonment for a minimum term of one year which may extend to seven years and also an imposition of a minimum fine of five thousand rupees.
The punishment for teasing, molestation, injury or disturbance to the animals shall follow an imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or fine which may extend to two thousand rupees, or with both. It should also be noted that in case of a subsequent offence, the term of imprisonment may escalate to one year or the fine may extend to five thousand rupees.
India is a land of abundance of natural
resources with an immense variety of flora and fauna calling for preservation
and safeguard. The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 was implemented for the
accomplishment of the same purpose by serving a security blanket against
illegal poaching, shooting, wildlife trade and various plant species in various
flora and fauna. This Act also empowers the State as well as the Central
government to declare any area as a Sanctuary or National Park. Various
restrictions are imposed on any action in these areas and officers are assigned
to oversee the operations in those areas. The implementation of this act has
helped in stabilizing, preserving and protecting the wildlife.
[i] S.2, Wildlife Protection Act 1972
[ii] S.3, Wildlife Protection Act 1972
[iii]S.4, Wildlife Protection Act 1972
[iv]S.5 ,Wildlife Protection Act 1972
[v] S.6, Wildlife Protection Act 1972
[vi] (2011) 7 SCC 338
[vii] S.9, Wildlife Protection Act 1972
[viii] 1997(2) SCR 728
[ix] S.27, Wildlife Protection Act 1972
[x] S.28, Wildlife Protection Act 1972
[xi] AIR 1996 SC 2040
[xii] IR 2003 SC 3268
[xiii] S.48, Wildlife Protection Act 1972