The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972- A gist

History:

  • In olden days the environmental protection was a kind of moral duty.
  • The ancient people by way of religious scriptures, seers and other agencies protected them.
  • Animals were considered as God and people had close connection with them. Cows are even now prayed as God.
  • Certain creatures, animals and birds were considered to be vehicles of gods. Even the trees were considered to be the place of living of gods.
  • Kautilya, great political philosophers and the author of The Arthasasthra, prohibited and prescribed penalties for the killing of animals, cutting of trees and the excess exploitation of the natural resources.
  • And injury to environment was considered injury to God.

Before passing of this Act:

  • The Indian Penal Code, 1860, though it has no specific provision relating to wildlife, but it defines the term “animal” under Sec 47 as living creature, other than a human being. Also, it declares maiming, killing of animals as an offence and punishable under Sec 428 and Sec 429.
  • The cattle Trespass Act, 1871
  • The Elephant Preservation Act, 1879 prohibited killing, injuring or capturing, or any attempt at the same, unless it is in self-defence, permitted by a licence, or when the elephant is found damaging house or cultivation, or in immediate vicinity of public road, railway or canal. (Under Sec 3) and Penalty for the contravention of this provision has also been provided by the act (Under Sec 7).
  • The Forest Act, 1927, which includes certain provisions for restricting hunting reserved and protected forests and other authorised establishments or sanctuaries under Sec 26(1)(i)(j). Thus, Hunting, shooting, fishing, poisoning water or setting traps, etc, is an offence under the Act.

Constitutional provisions:

  • Art. 48-A, has provided that “the state shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country”.
  • Entry 17- Prevention of cruelty to animals
  • Entry 17A- Forests
  • Entry 17B- Protection of Wildlife and birds
  • Entry 29- Prevention of the extension from one state to another of infectious or contagious disease of pests affecting men, animals or plants
  • List II of seventh schedule empowers the state to make laws “to preserve, protect and improve the livestock and prevent animal diseases
  • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960
  • Biological Diversity Act, 2002.

The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972:

  • In 1972, Indian Parliament on 9th September passed the comprehensive Act.
  • The Wild Life (Transactions and Taxidermy) Rules, 1973;
  • The Wild Life (Stock Declaration) Central Rules, 1973;
  • The Wild life (Protection) Licensing (Additional Matters for Consideration) Rules, 1983;
  • The Wild Life (Protection) Rules, 1995;
  • The Wild Life (Specified Plants – Conditions for Possession by Licensee) Rules, 1995;
  • Forest Conservation Act, 1980;
  • Forest (Conservation) Rules, 1981;
  • National Forest Policy, 1988

Chapters and Schedules:

The Act consists of 66 Sections and 6 schedules divided into 7 chapters.

  • Schedule I and Schedule II:

This section covers animals which are in the category of endangered species. The sections in this schedule give absolute protection to certain species and these cannot be infringed on any account.

 

  • Schedule III and Schedule IV:

These also have roughly the same provisions of Section I and II, but cover animals that are not in danger of becoming extinct. The penalties under this section are also less than Schedule I and II.

 

  • Schedule V and Schedule VI:

Schedule V delineates animals that can be hunted like ducks and deer’s. For this purpose the hunter has to apply for a license to the District Forest Officer who will allow a hunter to shoot during a specific season and restricted area. Any infringement can lead to cancellation of the hunting license. Schedule VI concerns cultivation and plant life and gives teeth to setting up more protected animal parks.

 

Chapters:

Chapter 1- Preliminary

Chapter II- Authorities to be appointed or constituted under this Act

Chapter III- Hunting of Wild Animals

Chapter IIIA- Protection of Specified Plants

Chapter IV- Sanctuaries, National Parks and Closed Areas

Chapter IVA- Central Zoo Authority and Recognition of Zoo’s

Chapter V- Trade or Commerce in Wild Animals

Chapter VA- Prohibition of Trade or Commerce in Trophies, Animal Articles, etc. derived from Certain Animals.

Chapter VI- Prevention and Detection of offences

Chapter VII- Miscellaneous

 

Important definitions:

  • Sec 2(1)-“animal” includes amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles, and their young, and also includes, in the cases of birds and reptiles, their eggs,
  • Sec 2(37)-“wildlife” includes any animal, bees butterflies, crustacean, fish and moths; and aquatic or land vegetation which forms part of any habitat;
  • Sec 2(36)-“wild animal” means any animal found wild in nature and includes any animal specified in Schedule I, Schedule II, Schedule, IV or Schedule V, wherever found;

Authorities under the Act:

  • Director of Wildlife Preservation and Assistant Director of Wildlife Protection- Central government appoints
  • 1) Chief Wildlife Warden, 2) Wildlife warden, 3) Honorary wildlife Wardens, and 4) other officers and employees as may be necessary- State government appoints
  • The State Government and the administrators in Union Territories shall constitute a Wildlife Advisory Board

Members:

(a) the Minister in charge of Forest in the State or Union Territory, or, if there is no such Minister, the Chief Secretary to the State will be the chairman;

(b) two members of the State Legislature or, in the case of a Union Territory having a Legislature, two members of the legislature of the Union Territory,

(c) Secretary to the State Government, or the Government of the Union Territory, in charges of Forests;

d) The Forest Officer in charge of the State Forest Department, ex-officio;

(e) an officer to be nominated by the Director;

(f) Chief Wildlife Warden, ex-officio;

(g) Officers of the State Forest Government not exceeding five

(h) such other person, not exceeding ten, who, in the opinion of the State Government, are interested in the protection of Wildlife, including the representatives of tribal not exceeding three.

 

Penalties:

  • The Act considers “no-faulty liability” and the Act does not require “mens reas” to prove to punish a person.
  • Sec 51 A of the Act
  • One year to six years with fine not less than 5000 rupees
  • In a subsequent offence- extend to 6 years and not less than two years with fine 10000 rupees
  • Prohibition of trade or commerce sections-punishment one to 7 years imprisonment with fine not less than 5 years
  • Violation of 38J- (tease, molest, feed in zoo)- one to six months, with or without fine upto 2000 rupees
  • If any person, exercising powers under this Act, vexatious and unnecessarily seizes the property of any other person on the pretence of seizing it for the reasons mentioned in sec. 50, he shall, on conviction, be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both.

 

 

 

 

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