Recent incidents in the country is rightly in compliance with the saying “Humans are the most dangerous animals in the world”. We can see many incidents in the recent days where human interference has claimed the life of fauna in the country.
It started with the major incident of death of a pregnant elephant in the Palakkad district of Kerala. Here, the animal which came to the district in search of food, was fed with cracker stuffed Pineapple. This severely injured its lower jaw, making it incapable of further consumption of food. Thus it went and stood in the river in order to reduce its pain, consuming only water for several days. Gradually after few days it collapsed to death.
Similar incident took place in Kollam, Thiruvizhankunnu, where a 20 year old elephant was killed in the similar manner by consumption of crude bomb stuffed fruit. It attained death while standing in the nearby Velliyar strem.
There was also an incident in Himachal Pradesh where a domestic pregnant cow was injured after being fed firecrackers wrapped in wheat flour.
All these incidents urges us to look into the rules governing the protection of wildlife of the country.
Consequences on the society
The above mentioned incidents have wide spread consequences on the society in various angles, socially, politically, economically, culturally and environmentally.
When it comes to social consequences, it violates the rules and regulations put forth by the legislation for protecting the wildlife. Few Acts are executed by the government with the aim of protecting and flourishing the flora and fauna of our country. This includes , Wildlife Protection Act 1972, Indian Forests Act 1972, Fisheries Act 1897, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960, Biological Diversity Act 2002, Environment Protection Act 1986 etc. Such illegal ways (as mentioned above) undertaken by humans to protect themselves, has a large impact on the further actions of the people in the society. It creates a sense of lenience towards the acts executed by the government.
Political consequences may go beyond imaginable level in this quasi-federal democratic country. The opposition parties may start questioning the regulations laid down by the acting government in controlling such incidents, creating political instability in the country. This may also affect the very aspect of equality, sovereignty, secularism mentioned in the constitution of the nation, hampering the basic set up on which the Constitution of India is built upon.
Economically, people may start practicing illegal means of protecting their property from wildlife interference, so that their investments on such protection practices, reduces and becomes feasible. This may in turn encourage poachers, hunters, smugglers in continuing their illegal business or trade, violating the restrictions and rules of such activities mentioned under Wildlife Protection Act 1972, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960, Indian Forests Act 1972 and Environment Protection Act 1986. This results in paving path for incurring environmental and political consequences.
Different cultures have different perspective towards various kinds of animals. If Hindu’s treat cow sacredly, Muslims treat it as a part of their food diet. Pig is treated sacredly by Muslims, whereas Hindu’s treat it as a non-vegetarian food. In the same way Hindu’s treat Elephant similar to their religious god Lord Ganesh and they treat monkeys as their religious god Lord Hanuman. So, in different religion different animals are treated differently. Thus, when these animals are harmed or used for commercial purpose, it harms their religious belief, violating Article 25 of the Constitution of India.
The greater consequence of these activities has to be faced by the Environment. Killing animals for protecting human’s property, commercial trade, etc creates ecological imbalance, disrupts food chain and passage of energy in the ecosystem. It also affects the propagation of flora, as some animals help in the process of pollination. It also sets a drawback in allowing the genetic variations of the species in the environment, disabling effective scientific research for the scientists and researchers.
Analysing the existing related laws
Article 48-A of the Constitution says that the State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forest and wildlife of the country.
Article 51A(g) imposes a fundamental duty on every citizen of India to protect and improve the environment and have compassion for living creatures.
Both the above article comes under DPSP(Directive Principles of State Policy).They are non-justiciable in nature because they are not legally enforceable by the courts for their violation. Therefore, the government cannot be compelled to implement them.
This serves as the major drawback for protecting the fauna, even though the such laws exist in the constitution. Thus, in order to prevent such incidents, these laws should be made enforceable and strict action should be taken on violation of such laws.
The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972:
The is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted for protection of plants and animal species. The Act provides for the protection of wild animals, birds and plants; and for matters connected there with or ancillary or incidental thereto. Hunting of animals is prohibited according to the schedule 1, 2, 3, 4 of the wildlife protection act. The exceptions of these is, the hunting of wild animals is permitted only in the following cases:
- If the animal has become dangerous to human life or is disabled beyond recovery.
- Killing or wounding in good faith in defense of oneself.
The government also declares that Sanctuary, National parks and closed areas are for the purpose of protecting, propagating or developing wild life or its environment. Hunting is strictly prohibited in these areas. Penalties includes, imprisonments varying from six months up to seven years and/fine ranging from Rs.500 up to not less than Rs. 10,000/- depending upon the nature and seriousness of the offence committed regarding the specified wildlife.
According to the above mentioned rules and with respect to the above case, the animal was neither dangerous to human life nor was disabled beyond recovery. Adding upon, the act of feeding it with cracker filled pineapple did not comply with ‘killing or wounding in good faith in defense of oneself’. So, the above rule about hunting specified in schedule 1, 2, 3, 4 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, protects the wildlife reasonably and with this we can tell that it was the mistake of Human beings to harm the animal.
But when it comes to area under which the animals and wildlife are protected , it is specified that they are only protected in Sanctuary, National parks and closed areas which are considered to be isolated for the purpose of protecting, propagating or developing wild life or its environment. But, in the above case the Elephant had come to Palakkad ‘district’, which is an area not mentioned in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, to be isolated for the protection of wildlife. In this case, the act of causing danger to the animal is not considered to be violative of the law. Thus, there is a need of law which protects wildlife from human intervention at each and every place on this earth.
When it comes to penalties, there are no specification regarding the intensities of punishment to be awarded, taking into consideration the condition of the animal and the circumstances under which the animal was harmed. In this case, the elephant was ‘pregnant’ when it was harmed and the circumstances was that it was ‘hungry’, it didn’t cause any harm to humans, even then it was killed. So, there is a need for norm which strictly punishes such inhumane activities of killing innocent animals, setting an example for future.
Prevention of cruelty to animals Act, 1960:
It is an act to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals and to amend the laws relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals.
Section 11(1) says that:
(b) If any person causes infirmity, wound, sore or other cause, is unfit to be so employed or, being the owner, permits any such unfit animal to be so employed
(c) wilfully and unreasonably administers any injurious drug or injurious substance to or wilfully and unreasonably causes or attempts to cause any such drug or substance to be taken by
Shall be punishable with fine which shall not be less than ten rupees but which may extend to fifty rupees, and in the case of a second or subsequent offence committed within three years of the previous offence, with fine which shall not be less than twenty-five rupees but which may extend to one hundred rupees or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or with both.
In this case the fine imposed or the punishment awarded for such heinous offense is very less. This creates leniency in the minds of people regarding the executed norms. This in turn compels him to violate the above laws and continue illegal practices to gain more profits, as he will be able to pay the penalty and bare the easy punishment awarded for gaining more profits in life.
Steps to be taken to subdue the problem
We can follow the below mentioned methods to prevent such harm and problems:
Firstly, the government and legislation should concentrate upon adopting more efficient and effective laws, by finding out the flaws in existing laws. Strict penalties and punishment should also be awarded for such acts, setting an example for the future wrongdoers. This, will make the citizens to take the laws executed seriously and act accordingly
Secondly, the people should reduce interfering into the forest areas of wildlife by extending roads, building resorts, developing forest areas, conducting adventure camps etc. This will help in preserving the natural resources available and also helps the animals to live in their place peacefully without coming into the cities and districts in search of food. There should be strict laws laid down restricting the construction of houses and farmlands in these forest areas.
Apart from this, it is very much important for the people to develop responsibility and soft corner towards the wellbeing of people. They should take initiative to stop people from harming animals irrespective of domestic or wild animal. They should be conscious while exercising their actions against the animals for self defence. It should be done in such a way that no major harm is caused to the animals.
Lastly, people should stop poaching and hunting wild animals for the purpose of developing the economic conditions of the country. Yes, some parts of different animals have great demand on an international level but, even then the nation and the people, should be concerned about the fauna and resources of the country rather than concentrating on development of the economy and the country, at least when it comes to the matter of ‘lives’.
Thus, the government, legislation and judiciary should look into these matters seriously, doing the required changes to make the executed laws effective. Along with them the people should also take self initiative and responsibility towards preventing such incidents. This will in fact be more effective than the laws laid down. On the whole it is better to interpret the fundamental right ‘right to equality’ not only amidst the people of the country but also amidst all the living organisms of the country.
Author: Harshini P,
IFIM LAW SCHOOL(BBA LLB, 1st year)