This article has been written by Akshay during his internship.
Wildlife means the native wild fauna and flora of a neighbourhoods. As per Section 2 of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, “wildlife” includes, any animal, bees, butterflies, crustacean, fish and moths; and aquatic or land vegetation which forms part of any habitat. The definition embraces all life forms that are wild. India has nearly 6.5% of the world’s known wildlife species, and is one among the mega diverse countries of the planet.
WHAT IS WILDLIFE CRIME?
Wildlife crime are often defined as taking, possession, trade or movement, processing, consumption of untamed animals and plants or their derivatives in contravention of any international, regional, or national legislations. Though wildlife crimes share many of the characteristics of other transnational crime types, they’re yet to be viewed, and as ‘mainstream’ crimes like drug-trafficking, murder, rape or burglaries.
Wildlife offenders are often divided into two groups –
A. The poachers or hunters who kill or capture wild animals or collect wild plants
B. Persons trading, buying hunted and/or captured animals or its body parts or derivatives or collected plants or its parts or derivatives, for own consumption or purchasable.
India is home to varied diverse species. These species are becoming extinct thanks to poaching, illegal trading, etc. Even after the implementation of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 protects against those that are involved in such crimes. Wildlife crimes are often defined as occupation, trading of wildlife animals, thus infringing the national and international legislation. This offence not only affects the wildlife and plants, but it also affects the ecosystem which disturbs the whole organic phenomenon web, and thus the country is that the main victim of this social-economic crime. so as to mitigate the amount of wildlife crimes the wildlife crime control bureau was established on 4th September 2006 by making amendments within the wildlife protection Act, 1972. It became operative from the year 2008. it’s its headquarters situated in Delhi. it’s its original and sub-regional offices across the country.
The statutory body was formed to guard wildlife species and flora of the country. it’s its online database to stop wildlife crimes across India. It not only plays an efficient role in curbing national wildlife crimes but also prevents trans-boundary wildlife crimes. it’s a body which suggests various policies, relevant law to mitigate the amount of crimes. The body has the independent power to research crimes and take action against the offender.
FORMATION OF WILDLIFE CRIME CONTROL
In 1998 there was the formation of a wildlife protection bureau under the ministry of environment and forest. thanks to the rise within the number of illegal trade of wildlife and cases associated with poaching of tigers which cause the formation of wildlife crime cells in 2001 with an objective to gather and analyse data and to require appropriate action. As many tigers were getting killed the ministry of forest and environment decided to line up a tiger task force.
The task force suggested fixing a wildlife crime control bureau because it had been difficult for them to enforce their tasks at different levels like eliminating offences at the state level, criminalizing large poachers, and conducting the investigation of varied International trade links. This proposal was submitted to the prime minister on 17 March 2005 which was further sent to the opposite council of ministers and was thus passed within the parliament in 2006. It received the president’s assent on 4th September and came into operation within the year 2008.
LEGAL PROVISIONS CONCERNING THE PROTECTION OF WILDLIFE MENTIONED WITHIN THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA
• S. 51-A (g) of the Indian Constitution highlights that humans should have compassion towards other living creatures and also protect the natural environment.
• Article 48 of the Indian Constitution imposes the duty on the state to guard the interest of the wildlife species within the country.
• Both state and therefore the Centre can make laws on the difficulty of protection of wildlife and birds because it is mentioned within the Concurrent List.
WHAT ARE THE SALIENT FEATURES OF THE WILDLIFE CRIME CONTROL BUREAU?
• It gathers various information associated with wildlife crimes and illegal trade across the country.
• The bureau helps in combating crimes happening in various states and also supports those that don’t have the right infrastructure to combat them.
• It promotes sensitization on the difficulty of wildlife protection.
• Providing security to animals that are becoming extinct.
• Prohibit the hunting of animals and plants and strict punishment on the violators.
ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Various roles and responsibilities of the wildlife control bureau
• To gather information associated with wildlife crime and to send it across various states and agencies to require immediate action as mentioned under S. 38(Z) of wildlife protection Act, 1972.
• To develop infrastructure to research wildlife crimes and assisting the government to scale back the amount of wildlife crimes.
• To advise the customs authority within the inspection of flora and fauna as per the wildlife protection Act, 1972, CITES, and EXIM policy.
• To coordinate with various foreign and international organizations to scale back the amount of wildlife crimes.
• To establish a central crime data bank.
• To suggest the govt various measures and policies to eliminate wildlife crime.
• To implement various international conventions and protocols associated with wildlife in India.
• To share information associated with wildlife crimes so as to curb illegal trans-boundary trade.
• To control illegal trade and poaching of wildlife and wildlife products across the country.
STEPS OF INVESTIGATION
Investigating officer, while handling cases of crime against wildlife, has got to follow various procedures like:
• Investigation at the scene of the crime: The forest officers are alleged to have a diary for recording relevant information. Investigating kits should be carried by the officers. All the seized material should be forwarded to the magistrate and a sample should be sent for examination.
• Interrogation of the accused: The confession with the accused should be recorded within 6-12 hours of his arrestment. Every page of confession should be signed by the accused and there shouldn’t be any physical duress and cruelty against the accused.
• Examination of Witnesses: Any officer not below the rank of assistant conservator of the forest is meant to record the evidence. From the witnesses, no evidence shall be recorded. Statements of doctors and experts who conducted the postmortem should not be recorded.
• Collection of evidence: The evidence that’s collected which will be of various sorts of digital evidence which incorporates laptops, mobile phones, etc., should be sent to the cybercrime laboratory. Documentary evidence includes flight tickets, toll receipts, etc. subsequent one is forensic evidence which incorporates seizure of skins, teeth, blood, laws, etc. which should be sent to the forensic experts.
• Consolidation of the collected evidence: during this stage, all the relevant evidence that was collected would be evaluated, and if it’s enough to prove the case against the accused then a complaint shall be filed.
• Filing Complaint: The complaint will be registered under S.55 of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The complaint should mention facts and circumstances and enough evidence should be mentioned to prove that the accused guilty. The complaint should contain a prayer. Once the complaint is filed there’s no further scope of the investigation.
• GR Simon Vs Union of India Facts: In GR Simon vs Union of India a petition was filed by an individual engaged within the business of leather material made out of snake’s skin. He contended against the Wildlife Protection Act,1972 is violative of Article 19(1) of the Indian constitution.
• Judgment: The Delhi supreme court quashed the petition and held that activity was of public interest it caused harm to animals which are an integral a part of the society. This wildlife protection Act,1972 was considered constitutional by the court.
• Balran Kumawat vs Union of India Facts: In Balaran Kumawat vs Union of India the accused imported Mammoth ivory in India this was challenged within the court. The appellants contended that the entire prohibition of trade of ivory may be a reasonable restriction on freedom of trade and business.
• Judgment: The Supreme court held that consistent with the wildlife protection Act, 1972 trade of ivory is prohibited and thus petition can’t be engaged during this practice. It also held that ivory of any form is restricted from trade.
WAYS TO CURB THE ISSUE OF WILDLIFE CRIMES
INCREASING THE INVOLVEMENT OF NGO
NGO plays a critical role in preserving wildlife species. it might provide information about those engaged in such criminal activities to the agencies. It also organizes various programs associated with animal rights so as to teach people.
SPEEDING THE JUSTICE SYSTEM AND IMPOSING HARSH PUNISHMENT
For the court to succeed in a final verdict, it takes about 10 years, within that point the offender continues to interact in these sorts of illegal activities so it’s necessary to hurry up the justice system. one among the ways to discourage people from committing these sorts of activities is by imposing stringent punishment.
TO EDUCATE THE GENERAL PUBLIC AND OFFICIALS
It is necessary to teach people about the varied immediate actions that they’re alleged to take. Conducting various sensitization programs. Conducting programs for the officials in order that they’re conscious of the procedures while handling such crimes and would take the possible corrective actions.
These are the precise areas which are established so as to preserve the wildlife and plants. Biospheres help in reviving the normal culture and maintaining the ecological balance of the ecosystem. Till now there are only 18 biodiversity reserves, more got to be found out to guard the flora and therefore the fauna. it might play an important role in reviving the ecosystems and preserving the cultural landscape.
ROLE OF THE GOVERNMENT
One of the crucial steps that the governments got to absorb order to curb is fixing infrastructure which might help to alienate those involved in these activities. there’s a requirement to analyse the present existing provisions by repealing those which are ineffective and introducing new provisions to scale back wildlife crimes.
LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR WILDLIFE CONSERVATION IN INDIA
• The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, provides for canopy to listed species of flora and fauna and establishes a network of ecologically-important protected areas. The Act consists of 60 Sections and VI Schedules- divided into Eight Chapters. the most features of the act are-Establishment of protected areas- The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 empowers the central and state governments to declare any area a wildlife sanctuary, park or closed area.
• Protection and management of wildlife habitats- there is a blanket ban on completing any industrial activity inside these protected areas.
• Regulation and control of trade – It provides for authorities to administer and implement the Act and regulate the hunting of untamed animals; protect specified plants, sanctuaries, national parks and closed areas. It also restricts trade or commerce in wild animals or animal articles and miscellaneous matters.
• Prohibition of hunting- The Act prohibits hunting of animals except with permission of authorized officer when an animal has become dangerous to human life or property or as disabled or diseased on be beyond recovery. The act has had some major amendments within the previous years, a few of of them are-
• In 1982, an amendment introduced provisions permitting the capture and transportation of untamed animals for the scientific management of animal population.
• The near-total prohibition on hunting was made simpler by the Amendment Act of 1991.This also recognized the wants of tribal and forest dwellers and changes were introduced to advance their welfare.
• Widespread changes are made by the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002 and a replacement chapter has been incorporated to affect the forfeiture of property derived from illegal hunting and trade. Further, this amendment Act also introduced the concept of cooperative management through conservation reserve management committee and community reserve committees.
• The Government of India constituted a statutory body, the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau on 6th June 2007 by amending the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. This bureau complements the efforts of the state governments, primary enforcers, and other enforcement agencies of the country.
- The Forest Conservation Act (1980): so on see rapid deforestation because of forestlands being released by state governments for agriculture, industry and other development projects (allowed under the Indian Forest Act) the federal enacted the Forest Conservation Act in 1980 with an amendment in 1988. The Act made the prior approval of the federal necessary for de-reservation of reserved forests, logging and to be used of forestland for non- forest purposes. The Supreme Court of India has currently imposed a whole ban on the discharge of forestland for non-forestry activities without the prior approval of the federal .
- The Environment (Protection) Act (1986): The Environment Protection Act may be a crucial legislation that provides for coordination of activities of the numerous regulatory agencies, creation of authorities with adequate powers for environmental protection, regulation of the discharge of environmental pollutants, handling of hazardous substances, etc. The Act provided an opportunity to extend legal protection to non-forest habitats (‘Ecologically Sensitive Areas’) like grasslands, wetlands and coastal zones.
- The Biological Diversity Act (2002): India could also be a celebration to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The provisions of the Biological Diversity Act are additionally to and not in derogation of the provisions within the other law concerning forests or wildlife.
- CITES: CITES and Wildlife Protection in India could also be a member of the CITES (Convention on International trade species of untamed Fauna and Flora) since 1976. It aims to ban trade species and to manage trade of other commercially exploited species. CITES may be a world agreement between governments that aims to form sure that the international trade specimens of untamed animals and plants doesn’t threaten their survival.
- TRAFFIC: In 1976, the year after the entry into force of the CITES, the Species Survival Commission of IUCN established the Trade Records Analysis of Flora and Fauna in Commerce (TRAFFIC) to observe wildlife trade and thus the implementation of the treaty. TRAFFIC actively monitors and investigates wildlife trade, and provides its information to a various audience world-wide, as a basis for effective conservation policies and programmes. This non-governmental organisation undertakes its activities in close collaboration with governments .
- The Third Wildlife Action Plan For 2017-2031: India unveiled the third National Wildlife Action Plan for 2017-2031 on 1st October. The third National Wildlife Action Plan is exclusive in nature because the plan lays out the strategies and actions to affect the challenges emerging out of worldwide global climate change effect on wildlife and emphasises on integrating steps that need to be taken for its mitigation and adaptation into wildlife management planning processes.
The offenses like poaching and illegal wildlife trade have significantly decreased the quantity of species counted in India. India features an upscale heritage and culture and has adequate natural resources. it’s therefore important to protect the wildlife species. After the establishment of the wildlife crime control bureau, there has been an enormous dip within the amount of wildlife crimes but still, the quantity isn’t small. because of this activity, they’re posing a threat to the ecosystem.
Various challenges that are imagined to be addressed so on reduce wildlife crimes in India. They include the insufficiency of implemented laws to stop crimes, inadequate implementation of laws by the forest officers. Forest officers involved in bribery. These are the prominent challenges that are needed to be addressed. The ministry of environment, forest, and global global climate change should take decisions to form more statutory bodies like wildlife crime control bureau. it is necessary to understand that citizenry aren’t the only species on the world. It is also equally important to respect the opposite species and dedicate efforts to protecting their rights.