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This article is written by Vishesh Gupta from Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad. This article provides an exhaustive insight into the role of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 in the conservation of tigers.

Introduction

On International Tiger day i.e. 29 July, Shri Narendra Modi, Prime minister of India, announced that there was a 33% increase in the population of tigers in 2019 and proudly added that India was one of the biggest and most secure habitats of the tiger all around the world. There is credibility to this statement as India is home to almost 70- 80% of the world’s tigers and India has achieved the international obligation of doubling the population of tigers before 2022. Also, the Central government had allocated Rs 350 crore for tiger conservation to states in 2019.

However, there still remains a concern regarding the high number of tiger poachings on a yearly basis and the limited available territory for expanding habitats for a huge population of tigers. This article focuses on current legislation and guidelines for tiger conservation in India and discusses whether any legislation or government scheme has helped in solving the limited availability of land.

To strengthen the conservation of tigers and to follow the urgent recommendations by the Tiger Task Force, an amendment was passed in 2006 titled The Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2006, creating a special statutory body named National Tiger Conservation Authority.

National Tiger Conservation Authority

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)  is a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change for strengthening tiger conservation in India. NCTA was created in 2005 following the recommendation of the tiger task force and was given the status of statutory authority under Section 38L of the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2006.

Within the ambit of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) NTCA maintains a regulatory oversight over guidelines, ongoing conservation initiatives around India and recommendations of specially constituted Committees. 

Constitution of the National Tiger Conservation Authority

The Constitution of the NTCA has been laid out in Section 38(2) of the Act. The Chairperson of the Tiger Conservation Authority (TCA) shall be the Minister in charge of the Ministry of Environment forest and climate change. The vice-chairperson shall be the Minister of State of the Ministry of Environment, forest and climate change.  There shall be eight experts or professionals under the chairperson, having qualifications and experience in wildlife conservation and the welfare of people living in the tiger reserve. Out of these, 2 experts shall be from the field of tribal development. The authority shall also consist of 3 members of parliament out of which 2 shall be elected by Rajya Sabha and 1 from Lok Sabha. The list of incumbent members of the TCA is available here

Term of office and conditions of service of members

The terms of office and condition of service of members of the NTCA has been laid out in Section 38M of the Act. The term of the chairperson as the head of the TCA depends upon his term as the minister in charge of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and climate change and the same go for the vice-chairperson as well. On the other hand, the term of the 8 experts, as per Section 38M(1) of the Act, shall be not more than 3 years. The member can resign by writing under his hand to the central government.

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Removal of member

The central government has the power to remove a member from the 8 experts from the office if the member:

  1. Has been declared insolvent.
  2. Has been convicted for an offence which involves moral turpitude in the opinion of the central government. Moral turpitude means an act that gravely violates the sentiment or the moral standards of the community. 
  3. Has been declared, by a competent court, to be of unsound mind. 
  4. Refuses to act or becomes incapable of performing his functions under CTA.
  5. Has abused his position which in the opinion of the Central Government, is detrimental to the public interest.

Following the principle of audi alteram partem which means “listening to the other side”, a member cannot be removed unless they have been provided with a reasonable opportunity of being heard.

Vacancy 

As per Section 38M(3) of the Act, the vacancy caused through any means like resignation, removal or even death, shall be filled by fresh appointment and he shall be the member of the committee for the remainder of the term of the previous member in whose place he is appointed. Also, as per Section 38M(5) of the Act, no act or order of the TCA shall be void on the grounds of vacancy or defect in the constitution of the Authority.  

Officers and employees of Tiger Conservation Authority

For efficient discharge of functions, the TCA, as per Section 38N of the Act,  may appoint officers and employees but they have to take the approval of the central government first. The Act also provides for the officers and employees who were holding office under Project Tiger just before the date of the constitution of the authority to uphold their offices in TCA and shall have the same tenure and terms and conditions as they had in Project Tiger. Those who opt not to work under the TCA shall hold office till 6 months.

Powers and functions of Tiger Conservation Authority

Tiger Conservation Authority has been created for better conservation of tigers in India. As an authority, all their functions should be aimed at conserving tigers. Their functions are enumerated in Sec 38O (1) of the Act. These functions are:

  1. Approving tiger conservation plan prepared by the State Government.
  2. Maintaining sustainable ecology and disallow any such use of land within the tiger reserves which is detrimental to the ecology.
  3. Making rules and guidelines for tourism activity for project Tiger in the tiger reserves and also ensure their due compliances.
  4. Measures for addressing conflicts between men and animals and emphasize on co-existence between the 2 outside the national parks, tiger reserve or sanctuaries. 
  5. Providing information to the public on the conservation plans, estimation of population of tigers, the status of natural habitat and report on any untoward incident. TCA releases the status of tigers in India. The report of 2018 is available here. 
  6. Approving coordinates research and monitoring of tigers.
  7. Facilitating and supporting tiger reserve management in the State.
  8. Ensuring critical support in scientific, IT and legal support for better conservation of tigers.
  9. Facilitating capacity building programmes for the officers and staff. 

Procedure to be regulated 

The procedure followed by TCA  shall be regulated by TCA themselves. Meetings of TCA shall be presided over by the Chairperson and in his absence, that responsibility shall be given to the vice-chairperson. Any decision or orders of TCA shall be authenticated by the Member-Secretary or any other person within the TCA that is authorised by the Member-Secretary.  

Grants and loans and Constitution of Fund

The Central Government may make grants and loans to TCA of such sums they deem necessary. But this can be only done after due appropriation by parliament.

A fund has been created under Section 38Q(2) of the Act which is called Tiger conservation authority fund and it shall include:

  1. Loans and grants authorised to TCA by the central government. 
  2. All fees and charges received by the TCA under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  3. All sums received by TCA through other sources which are decided by the central government.

The above mentioned fund shall be utilised for two purposes. First, for paying the salaries and other remunerations of the officers and employees of the TCA. Second, for paying the expenses incurred by the TCA in the discharge of its functions.  

Accounts and audit 

Section 38R of the Act requires the TCA to maintain proper accounts and file an annual statement of accounts in the manner prescribed by the central government in consultation with the Auditor General in India.

The Wildlife Protection Act, in accordance with Article 149 of the Indian Constitution, gives CAG the power to audit the accounts of the TCA and any expenditure incurred shall be paid by TCA to the CAG. The CAG has the right to demand the production of books, accounts and any other document as required by the CAG. The audited accounts of the TCA shall be forwarded to the Central Government.  

Annual report 

The TCA, as per Section 38S of the Act has to prepare an annual report, listing the full account of activities undertaken by TCA in the previous financial year and they have to send one copy of the report to the central government.

The Central Government, in accordance with Section 38T of the Act,  has to submit the annual report, Memorandum of Action taken on the recommendation and the audit report to both houses of the parliament.

Constitution of Steering Committee

Section 38U of the Act recommends the state govt to constitute a steering committee. The State government has the discretionary power of creating the steering committee at a state level for ensuring coordination, monitoring and conservation of tigers. The chairperson of the committee shall be the chief minister of that state and the minister in charge of wildlife shall be the vice-chairperson. Such no. of official members should not exceed 5 out of which at least 2 should be Field Directorates of the tiger reserve or Director of National Park and one from the state government department dealing with tribal affairs. The committee shall also include three experts who are qualified and experienced in conservation of wildlife out of which at least one shall be from the field of the tribal department. Chief Wildlife Warden of the state shall be the Member-Secretary. Two members from the State Tribal Advisory Council and one representative each from the State government department and Social Justice and Empowerment shall also be part of the committee. 

Tiger Conservation Plan

Section 38V(3) of the Act requires the state government to prepare a Tiger Conservation Plan (TCP)  to ensure the protection of tiger reserves, ecologically compatible use of land in tiger reserves and also to oversee whether the operations of regular forest divisions and adjoining tiger reserves are not incompatible with the needs of tiger conservation. All states were required to submit a TCP.  NTCA published a report, titled “Connecting Tiger Populations for Long-term Conservation”, in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII). The report mapped 32 major corridors and also detailed the tiger conservation plan under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Alteration and de-notification of tiger reserves

National Board for Wildlife is a statutory authority constituted under Section 5-A of the Act. It is chaired by the Prime Minister of India and plays an advisory role by advising Central and State Government on ways to promote wildlife conservation. It reviews all the wildlife-related matters and approves projects for national parks and sanctuaries. 

In cases of Tiger Reserves, National Board, as stated in Section 38W of the Act, plays an important role:

  1. The boundaries of tiger reserves cannot be altered without the recommendation of TCA and the approval of the National Board for Wildlife.
  2. A state cannot de-notify a tiger reserve unless it is in the public interest and with the approval of TCA and National Board for Wild Life.

Establishment of Tiger Conservation Foundation

As per Section 38X of the Act, it is mandatory for a state government to establish a Tiger conservation foundation within a state in each Tiger Reserve to facilitate and support them for the conservation of tigers. 

Objectives

They have the following objectives:

  1. To facilitate multifaceted developments relating to ecological, social, cultural and economical in the tiger reserves.
  2. To promote eco-tourism and safeguard the natural environment in the tiger reserves.
  3. To facilitate the creation of assets which can fulfil above-mentioned objectives.
  4. To solicit different types of support like technical, financial, social, legal required for the activities.

As of 2019, there are 41 Tiger Conservation Foundation in India. The list is available here.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (Tiger Conservation Foundation) guidelines, 2007

The government enacted The National Tiger Conservation Authority (Tiger Conservation Foundation) guidelines, 2007 for the purpose of Regulation of Tiger Conservation foundation.

Some Salient Features of the Guidelines:

  1. The Foundation shall be registered as a Trust under state-specific legislation.
  2. The Governing body and its constitution for the Tiger Conservation Foundation have been laid down in the guidelines under Rule 5 of the Guidelines.
  3. A member of the governing body has to be a member of a state legislature and the tenure of such member will be of 3 years.
  4. These guidelines also create the executive authority to look after the day to day management of the Foundation.

Conclusion

India is currently at the forefront of protection and conservation of Tigers in the world. However, this was not always the case. In the British era, almost 40,000 tigers were killed because of the huntings. However, in the 1970’s a revolution to protect tigers arose and since then India has not looked back.

The total area for tiger reserves have considerably increased, the techniques for counting the population has been upgraded and infrastructure for protection and conservation has been improved. On the other hand,  the land available for tiger reserves is limited.

To make the best use of the limited available territory for tigers, NTCA and the government has mapped multiple corridors so that safe passage can be ensured for the tiger to different parts of India.


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