Wildlife (protection) Act 1972 – An overview

Wildlife (protection) Act 1972 – An overview

Introduction

Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 was one of the first environment-based Acts that helped laying down the foundation of Environmental law in India. This Act was enacted to provide protection to listed species of flora and fauna in the Act and establish a network of ecologically important areas. It also empowers the Central as well State government to declare any area with endangered wildlife as a wildlife sanctuary, national park or closed area to protect the wildlife in the area from harmful human activities.

This particular Act went through many amendments that introduced new provisions regarding hunting, observing and researching wildlife for scientific purposes. New laws and lists were also added to prevent and control illegal hunting as well as illegal trading of animal goods.

The primary objective of this Act is to define Wildlife and empower the Central as well as State governments to declare wildlife protected areas and constitute a Wildlife Advisory Board in every State and Union Territory for the purpose of, as the name suggests, advising the government in any matter regarding Wildlife. And due to Wildlife’s definition being quite vast under this Act, the Act prescribes quite many provisions regarding specific functions and powers allotted to the Board.

Authorities constituted under Wildlife Protection Act

The authorities that constitute for the protection of wildlife at both the National and State level are prescribed by section 3 to section 6 under this Act, which also includes the Wildlife Advisory Board and its constituency.

According to section 3 of this Act, Central Government shall appoint a Director of Wildlife Preservation along with Assistant Directors of Wildlife Preservation and other such officers and employees as it deems necessary. Meanwhile, section 4 prescribes the State government to appoint Chief Wildlife Warden, Wildlife Warden, Honorary Wildlife Wardens and other such officers and employees as it may deem necessary.

Section 6 of this Act, meanwhile, sets the provisions for the establishment of the Wildlife Advisory Board whose constitution is given as below:

  • Chairman who is the Minister in charge of Forests in the given State or Union Territory;
  • Chief Secretary, who shall be the Chairman if there is no Minister of Forests as a candidate;
  • Two members of Legislature of the given State or Union Territory;
  • Secretary to the government of the given State or Union Territory;
  • Forest officer in charge of the State Forest Department;
  • Chief Wildlife Warden;
  • An officer nominated by Director of Wildlife Preservation;
  • Not more than five officers nominated by the State government;
  • Not more than ten other such persons nominated by the State government who are interested in the protection of wildlife.
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Along with this, section 8 of this Act also prescribes the duties of the Wildlife Advisory Board, which mainly focus on advising the State government on the matters regarding:

  • Selection of areas to declare as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and closed areas for the protection of the endangered or rare biodiversity of that region;
  • Formulation of policies for protection and conservation of flora and fauna;
  • Amendment of any schedule or provision mentioned under this Act;
  • Harmonising the needs of the tribals and other dwellers of the forests with the protection and conservation of the biodiversity of the region they are residing in;
  • Protection and conservation of wildlife and biodiversity of any region as may be referred by the State government.

Hunting of Wildlife Animals

Hunting, as defined by Section 2 {16 (a) (b) (c)} of this Act, includes capturing, killing, snaring, trapping and poisoning of any wild animal or attempting to do so, resulting in the injury of the animal or damage or taking of any body part of any such wild animal. It also includes stealing or damaging the eggs or nests of any wildlife animal.

Section 9 of this Act, in turn, prohibits such actions of hunting any wild animal – especially the ones mentioned under Schedules 1, 2, 3 and 4. If any person is found hunting any wild animal, they shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term that may extend till 3 years and/or a fine that may extend up to Rs 25000. However, if a person is found committing this offence under a Wildlife protected area like a sanctuary or national park, concerning any animal listed under Schedule 1, then the punishment shall be increased to the extended years of 6 years with a fine not less than Rs 5000.

However, that does not mean there are no exceptions to these provisions – under certain cases, hunting can be permitted, and those cases are:

  • Killing any wild animal in self – defence of oneself or any other person; provided that there was no other option than to kill or injure the animal and that the carcass is later handed over to the government.
  • If any animal under Schedule 1 becomes too dangerous to human life or is disabled/diseased beyond recovery, then the Chief Wildlife Warden may grant any person to hunt the animal down.
  • If any animal under Schedules 2, 3 and 4 becomes too dangerous to human life/property or is disabled/diseased beyond recovery, then the Chief Wildlife Warden or any authorized officer may grant any person to hunt the animal down.
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However, there are also some other cases where the Chief Wildlife Warden can permit to hunt down an animal for special purposes that include:

  • Education;
  • Scientific Research;
  • Scientific Management that includes translocation of any wild animal to a more suitable location and population management of the wildlife without killing or destroying them;
  • Collection of specimens for museums and similar institutions like recognised zoos;
  • Derivation, collection or preparation of snake venom for the manufacturing of life-saving drugs.

In addition to these, Section 17A of this act prohibits picking, uprooting or damaging specific plants notified under this Act or by the government for the purpose of trade, possession, selling or transfer in any way. However, the Chief Wildlife Warden, with permission of the State government, can permit to pick, uproot, collect or acquire such plants for the purpose of education, scientific research, collection and preservation by the scientific institutions, etc.

Wildlife Protected Areas

As mentioned earlier, the government can declare any particular region or area as a wildlife protected area with some advice from the Wildlife Advisory Board and other Wildlife authorities. These wildlife protected areas include:

Sanctuaries

Section 18 lays down the provisions regarding the establishment of sanctuaries that state that the State government can declare a region as a Sanctuary by issuing notification if it considers such area as an adequate region containing ecological, floral, faunal, natural or zoological significance.

Furthermore, only Chief Wildlife Warden can grant any person permission to enter or reside in a Sanctuary upon being requested through an application; the purpose of which may include tourism, photography, study/investigation of wildlife, scientific research and transaction of lawful business with any person in the Sanctuary. However, only a public servant or a permitted person has a right over immovable property within the limits of a sanctuary.

National Park

With the objective of protection and conservation of wildlife, the State government can declare an area as a National Park by notification if it considers such area as an adequate region containing ecological, floral, faunal, natural or zoological significance. However, once a National Park is made, no alteration to its boundaries can be made except on the resolution passed by the State legislature.

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In addition to that, National Parks do not allow activities as the following in its premises:

  • Destroying, exploring or removing of any wildlife;
  • Destroying, damaging or altering the habitat of any wildlife;
  • Depriving any wildlife of their habitat;
  • Grazing of any livestock.

Punishments

Most of the punishments listed under this Act are awarded by the Courts only in the cases where offences are issued as a complaint by the Director of Wildlife Preservation, or any other officer authorized on the behalf by the Central government at the national level and the Chief Wildlife Warden or any other officer authorized by the State government at the State level. Any person who has given notice of not less than 60 days can also file a complaint in Court.

In reference to the punishments, if any person is found committing any offence in relation to any animal specified in Schedule 1 and 2 or found in possession of any product derived from such animal, the punishment shall be awarded as imprisonment for no less than 1 year that shall extend till 6 years with an amount of fine which shall not be less than Rs 5000. In the case that the offence is more severe in nature (as in with more than a couple of such animal product or hunts), the imprisonment shall be no less than 2 years, extending till 6 years while the amount of fine shall be a minimum of Rs 10,000.

Moreover, any person who violates the provision regarding the prohibition of trade or commerce of animal articles derived from certain endangered or rare wild animals shall be punishable with imprisonment for no less than 1 year that shall extend till 7 years with an amount of fine which shall not be less than Rs 5000.

In addition to that, any person found committing the offence of teasing, molesting, injuring or causing severe disturbance to animals in a zoo shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term that shall extend to 6 months and/or with an amount of fine which shall extend to Rs 2000. In the case that the offence is more severe in nature, the imprisonment shall extend up to 1 year while the amount of fine shall be a minimum of Rs 5,000.

References

  • Bare Act of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
  • Krishan Keshav, ‘Law and Environment’, Singhal Law Publications
  • Gurdip Singh, Environmental Law in India, MacMillan Publisher

Author: Debapriya Biswas,
Amity Law School, Noida (2nd year)

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