OFFENCES UNDER WILDLIFE PROTECTION ACT

  • UP man booked under Wildlife Protection Act for keeping injured Sarus crane.
  • The Wildlife Protection Act came into force in 1972.
  • To provide for the protection of wild animals, birds and plants to ensure the ecological and environmental security of the country.
  • To conserve protected species in two main ways:
  • firstly, by prohibiting their hunting and
  • secondly by protecting their habitat through the creation and regulation of sanctuaries, national parks, reserves, etc.

Prohibitions under the Act:

  • The Act prohibits capturing or hunting any species of animals listed under Schedules I-IV.
  • hunting a diseased or dangerous animal or bird constituting a threat to human life or property or
  • for scientific research or management.
  • Broadly, offences under the Act can be divided into three categories;
  • hunting;
  • unauthorised possession, transport, and trade; and
  • offences related to protected areas or habitat destruction.
  • Hunting under the Act includes not just the act of killing or poisoning a wild or captive animal, but even an attempt to do so.
  • A captive animal is defined as any animal, specified in Schedule I-IV, which is captured or kept, or bred in captivity.
  • Even injuring or destroying any part of the animal or its eggs or nests is an offence punishable under Section 9 of the Act.

What are the Schedules listed in the Act?

Schedule I

  • This Schedule deals with endangered species.
  • Because these species require strict protection, the greatest punishments for law violations are listed in this Schedule.
  • Species listed in this Schedule are forbidden from being hunted in India, unless they pose a threat to human life.
  • Species on this list have absolute protection.
  • It is illegal to trade these animals.

Examples:

Tiger, blackbuck, Himalayan Brown Bear, Brow-Antlered Deer, Blue whale, Common Dolphin, Cheetah, Clouded Leopard, hornbills, Indian Gazelle, and other animals are examples.

Schedule II

  • Animals on this list are also afforded high protection, with trade prohibited.
  • They cannot be hunted unless there is a threat to human life or they are suffering from a disease/disorder that is beyond recovery.

Examples:

the Assamese Macaque, Pig Tailed Macaque, Stump Tailed Macaque, Bengal Hanuman langur, Himalayan Black Bear, Himalayan Newt/ Salamander, Jackal, Flying Squirrel, Giant Squirrel, Sperm Whale, Indian Cobra, and King Cobra.

Schedule 3 and Schedule 4

  • Schedules III and IV contain non-endangered species.
  • This includes protected species where hunting is prohibited, but the penalty for any violation is less severe than in the first two schedules.

Schedule III animals include:

Chital (spotted deer), Bharal (blue sheep), Hyena, Nilgai, Sambhar (deer), Sponges

Schedule IV animals include:

Flamingos, Hares, Falcons, Kingfishers, Magpies, Horseshoe Crabs

Schedule 5

  1. Schedule 5 animals are referred to as “vermin” and can be hunted.
  2. It includes only four animals:
  3. mice, rats, common crows, and flying foxes (fruit eating bats).

Schedule 6

  • It regulates the cultivation of a specific plant and restricts its possession, sale, and transportation.
  • Plant cultivation and trade are only permitted with the prior approval of a competent authority.

Schedule VI plants include:

  1. Beddomes’ cycad (Native to India)
  2. Blue Vanda (Blue Orchid)
  3. Red Vanda (Red Orchid)
  4. Kuth (Saussurea lappa)
  5. Slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum spp.)
  6. Pitcher plant (Nepenthes khasiana)

What is the law on animals and birds under Schedule IV?

Species mentioned under Schedules III and IV of the Wildlife Protection Act are governed by Sections 44, 48, and 49, which relate to:

  • the prohibition on dealings in trophy and animal articles without a license,
  • purchase of animals by a licensee, and
  • restriction on transportation of wildlife.
  • The Act specifically states that any wild animal or animal article can be transported only after obtaining permission from the Chief Wildlife Warden or any other officer authorised by the State Government on their behalf.
  • No hunting is allowed of species listed under Schedules III, IV, and Part I of Schedule II.

Exception:

The Act provides for issuing licenses to taxidermists, eating houses (hotels or restaurants), and dealers in animal articles, preserved animal parts or trophies, uncured trophies (whole or any unpreserved part of an animal), captive animals, and snake venom of such species.

What are the penalties for violating the provisions of the WPA?

  • Any person who contravenes any provision of the Act, except those on trade, commerce, and taxidermy of certain animals shall be punished with up to three years imprisonment or fine up to Rs. 25,000 rupees or both.
  • This also extends to any rule, order, or breach of conditions of a license or permit.
  • According to the latest amendment to the 1972 Act enacted on August 2, 2022, which is yet to come into force, the fine was increased to one lakh rupees.
  • If the offence relates to animals under the first two Schedules, imprisonment can be between three to seven years, with or without a fine of Rs 10,000, which will increase to Rs. 25,000 after the 2022 Amendment.
  • The burden of proving shall lie on the accused.

What are the powers of the state government?

  • In 1976 under the 42nd Amendment Act, the subject of “Forests and Protection of Wild Animals and Birds” was transferred from State to Concurrent List.
  • However, state governments still enjoy a host of powers under the WPA, 1972.
  • It allows the State government to appoint a Chief Wildlife Warden alongside wildlife wardens, honorary wildlife wardens, and other officers and employees.
  • It empowers the state to constitute a State Board for Wild Life, consisting of the Chief Minister as chairperson, the Minister in charge of Forests and Wildlife as the vice chairperson, and at least three members of the State legislature, among others.
  • State governments can also add or delete any entry to or from any Schedule or transfer any entry from one part of a Schedule to another, provided that any such alteration made by the State Government is done with the previous consent of the Centre.
  • State governments can notify certain rules, including the conditions subject to which any license or permit may be granted or under which the officers will be authorised to file cases in court.

The 2022 Amendment to the WPA

  • It sought to bring in changes like reducing the number of Schedules and increasing penalties under the Act.
  • It seeks to implement the provisions of CITES, an international agreement between governments ensuring international trade of wild animals and plant species does not threaten their survival.
  • The Amendment seeks to reduce the number of schedules from VI to IV, whereby Schedule V, for vermin or animals that destroy food crops, will be removed.
  • The revised Act also accords greater powers to the Centre concerning the export, import, regulation, prohibition, and trade of plant or animal species, through a designated Management Authority.
  • The exemption under Section 43 of the 1972 Act was amended to allow for the transfer of elephants for religious and other purposes, including commercial purposes, by a person having a valid certificate of ownership subject to terms and conditions as may be prescribed by the Central Government.

SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB

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