The article is written by Darshit Vora of SVKM, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, which mentions features, roles, and responsibilities performed by the Crime Control Bureau and lists various measures to reduce wildlife crimes.
India is home to various diverse species. These species are getting extinct due to poaching, illegal trading, etc. Even after the implementation of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 protects against those who are involved in such crimes. Wildlife crimes can be defined as taking possession, 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 entire food chain web, and thus the country is the main victim of this social-economic crime. In order to mitigate the number of wildlife crimes the wildlife crime control bureau was established on 4th September 2006 by making amendments in the wildlife protection Act,1972. It became operative from the year 2008. It has its headquarters situated in Delhi. It has its original and sub-regional offices across the country.
The statutory body was formed to protect wildlife species and flora of the country. It has its online database to prevent wildlife crimes across India. It not only plays an effective role in curbing national wildlife crimes but also prevents trans-boundary wildlife crimes. It is a body which suggests various policies, relevant law to mitigate the number of crimes. The body has the independent power to investigate crimes and take action against the offender.
A tragic incident took place in Kozhikode in Kerala on 27th May where an unfortunate death of a 15-year-old pregnant elephant took place after the elephant had a fruit that contained a cracker. This is not the first time the elephant has died in that place. Within three months as many as 5 elephants have been killed on the same spot. The Union Environment Minister has ordered an investigation into the elephant’s death. The three-member committee which was formed has now taken charge of the investigation.
Legal provisions concerning the protection of wildlife mentioned in 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 protect the interest of the wildlife species in the country.
- Both state and the Centre can make laws on the issue of protection of wildlife and birds as it is mentioned in the Concurrent List.
In 1994 a Subramanian Committee was set up in order to provide recommendations on issues like illegal trade of wildlife species and wildlife products. On 8th September 1994, the committee submitted the report. The committee made 56 recommendations, some of the prominent ones were the establishment of a central task force to combat illegal wildlife activities, developing a wildlife crime data bank to collect and analyze the data, and the establishment of a good intelligence network. Even after the recommendation, not even a single recommendation was implemented. In 1998 there was the formation of a wildlife trade protection bureau under the ministry of environment and forest. Due to the increase in the number of illegal trade of wildlife and cases related to poaching of tigers which lead to the formation of wildlife crime cells in 2001 with an objective to collect and analyze data and to take appropriate action. As many tigers were getting killed the ministry of forest and environment decided to set up a tiger task force.
The task force suggested setting up a wildlife crime control bureau because it was 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 various International trade links. This proposal was submitted to the prime minister on 17 March 2005 which was further sent to the other council of ministers and was thus passed in the parliament in 2006. It received the president’s assent on 4th September and came into operation in the year 2008.
What are the objectives of the wildlife crime control bureau?
The objectives of setting up the Wildlife crime control bureau were to protect the wildlife community and to preserve wildlife wealth. The bureau was also set up to exercise efforts in curbing wildlife crimes.
What are the salient features of the wildlife crime control bureau?
- It gathers various information related to wildlife crimes and illegal trade across the country.
- The bureau helps in combating crimes happening in various states and also supports those who don’t have the proper infrastructure to combat them.
- It promotes sensitization on the issue of wildlife protection.
- Providing security to animals that are getting 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 related to wildlife crime and to send it across various states and agencies to take immediate action as mentioned under S. 38(Z) of wildlife protection Act, 1972.
- To develop infrastructure to investigate wildlife crimes and assisting the state government to reduce the number of wildlife crimes.
- To advise the customs authority in 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 reduce the number of wildlife crimes.
- To establish a central crime data bank.
- To suggest the government various measures and policies to eliminate wildlife crime.
- To implement various international conventions and protocols related to wildlife in India.
- To share information related to wildlife crimes in order 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 dealing with cases of crime against wildlife, has to follow various procedures like:
- Investigation at the scene of the crime: The forest officers are supposed 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 of the accused should be recorded within 6-12 hours of his arrestment. Every page of confession should be signed by the accused and there should not 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 supposed to record the evidence. From the witnesses, no hearsay evidence shall be recorded. Statements of doctors and experts who conducted the postmortem shall not be recorded.
- Collection of evidence: The evidence that is collected that can be of different forms of digital evidence which includes laptops, mobile phones, etc., should be sent to the cybercrime laboratory. Documentary evidence includes flight tickets, toll receipts, etc. The next one is forensic evidence which includes seizure of skins, teeth, blood, laws, etc. which should be sent to the forensic experts.
- Consolidation of the collected evidence: In this stage, all the relevant evidence that was collected would be evaluated, and if it is enough to prove the case against the accused then a complaint shall be filed.
- Filing Complaint: The complaint is registered under S.55 of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The complaint should mention facts and circumstances and enough evidence should be mentioned to prove the accused guilty. The complaint should contain a prayer. Once the complaint is filed there is no further scope of the investigation.
Awards and achievements
- UN Environmental Award: This prestigious award is granted to those organizations that play a pivotal role in eliminating transboundary environmental crimes. The wildlife crime control bureau has won this award twice in 2017. It was given this award for conducting an operation named “operation save Kuma”. The operation included combating the illegal trade of turtles and their parts from India to various destinations abroad. It arrested 350 criminals engaged in such criminal activity. In 2018 the bureau received the award for their significant contribution in combating trans-boundary environmental crimes in Asia. They won this award in the category of innovation.
- Clark R. Bavin Wildlife law enforcement Award: This award is given to those organizations involved in covert and sting operations engaged in barring illegal wildlife trade. This award was conferred to wildlife crime control bureau in 2010 for their efforts in catching a total of 9 poachers, traders and middlemen and also the seizure of tiger skins, tiger and leopard parts. It also shut three different international poaching units.
- Chief Dave Cameron Award: This award was won by Wildlife crime control bureau in 2010. It is granted to those agencies which enforce environmental laws and educate people. It was won by them for their sincere efforts in environmental crimes and education.
- CITES certificate of condemnation: This award was given in the year 2018 to Wildlife Crime Control bureau for their significant contribution in combating illegal wildlife trade. In operation “save Kuma” approximately 16,000 live turtles and tortoises were seized and released back.
- Interpol Appreciation: The appreciation was awarded by INTERPOL in May 2018 for conducting various investigations and prosecutions. They arrested about 98 wildlife criminals. Along with that they also conducted various sensitization and awareness programs.
Relevant Case Laws
- GR Simon Vs Union of India Facts: In GR Simon vs Union of India a petition was filed by a person engaged in 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 high court quashed the petition and held that activity was of public interest it caused harm to animals which are an integral 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 in the court. The appellants contended that the complete prohibition of trade of ivory is a reasonable restriction on freedom of trade and business.
- Judgment: The Supreme court held that according to the wildlife protection Act, 1972 trade of ivory is prohibited and therefore petition cannot be engaged in 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 would play a critical role in preserving wildlife species. It would provide information about those engaged in such criminal activities to the agencies. It also organizes various programs related to animal rights in order to educate people.
Speeding the justice system and imposing harsh punishment
For the court to reach a final verdict, it takes about 10 years, within that time the offender continues to engage in these kinds of illegal activities so it is necessary to speed up the justice system. One of the ways to deter people from committing these types of activities is by imposing stringent punishment.
To educate the public and officials
It is necessary to educate people about the various immediate actions that they are supposed to take. Conducting various sensitization programs. Conducting programs for the officials so that they are aware of the procedures while dealing with such crimes and would take the possible corrective actions.
These are the specific areas which are established in order to preserve the wildlife and plants. Biospheres help in reviving the traditional culture and maintaining the ecological balance of the ecosystem. Till now there are only 18 biodiversity reserves, more need to be set up to protect the flora and the fauna. It would play a crucial role in reviving the ecosystems and preserving the cultural landscape.
Role of the government
One of the crucial steps that the governments need to take in order to curb is setting up infrastructure which would help to alienate those involved in these activities. There is a need to analyze the current existing provisions by repealing those which are ineffective and introducing new provisions to reduce wildlife crimes.
The offenses like poaching and illegal wildlife trade have significantly decreased the number of species counted in India. India has a rich heritage and culture and has adequate natural resources. It is therefore important to protect the wildlife species. After the establishment of the wildlife crime control bureau, there has been a significant dip in the number of wildlife crimes but still, the number is not small. Due to this activity, they are posing a threat to the ecosystem.
Various challenges that are supposed to be dealt with in order to reduce wildlife crimes in India. They include the insufficiency of implemented laws to prevent crimes, inadequate implementation of laws by the forest officers. Forest officers involved in bribery. These are some prominent challenges that are needed to be addressed. The ministry of environment, forest, and climate change should take decisions to form more statutory bodies like wildlife crime control bureau. It is necessary to understand that human beings are not the only species on the planet. It is also equally important to respect the other species and dedicate efforts to protecting their rights. “Humanity’s true moral test, it’s fundamental test consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.” -Milan Kudera.
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