This article is written by Misha Deb.
India is a vast country with a diverse population and affluent flora and fauna. The percentage of land covered by such wildlife species consists of 10% of world’s species. Therefore, it is important for the government to protect these wildlife species from getting extinct and destroyed due to human or any other intervention. Indian Constitution obligates the state to preserve and protect its flora and fauna from any damages. Wildlife helps in maintaining the ecological balance of nature. Killing of carnivores leads to an increase in the number of herbivores which in turn affect the forest vegetation, thus due to lack of food in the forest they come out from the forest to agriculture land and destroy our crops. This makes us know that wildlife helps in maintaining ecological balance even by being predators of each other. Animals are great predators which is the major reason for ecological development. Therefore, once the equilibrium and stability is disturbed it leads to many problems only because of human interference.
The Law with respect to the Role of Wildlife
Article 48-A of Part 4 of the Constitution states that it shall be the duty of the government to safeguard the wildlife and forests and to protect and improve the environment. Also, Article 51-A makes it the duty of every citizen to protect its natural environment like water bodies, forest areas and the animal kingdom. In order to give effect to these constitutional provisions Indian Parliament passed a legislation for the same and formed various Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks. According to ENVIS Centre on Wildlife & Protected Areas India has a total number of 553 Wildlife Sanctuaries which constitutes about 3.64% of total geographical land of the Country.
The rapid development and modernization over the years increased the threat on the wildlife and the forest areas. The change in this ecological balance has only resulted in damage for the country causing more and more natural disasters. There is a rapid decrease in number of many wildlife species in India and some of them have become extinct. For Instance, pink-headed duck, Indian aurochs, Asiatic cheetah, and some species are endangered like the Bengal tiger, Asiatic lion, Indian rhinoceros etc. It was of major concern and which necessitates the need to bring in the legislation for the protection of wildlife. To take into account such severe problems Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 has been passed by the Parliament under Article 252 of the Indian Constitution. This Act included protection of animals, birds and plant species. The Act is well explanatory and has six schedules extending all over India. There are various stringent penal provisions that are laid down in the Act in case of any violations. Before enforcement of this Act there were only five National Parks and thereafter, the number kept on increasing.
Salient Features and Objectives of the Act
The Act has an extensive list of animals, plants and birds species that needs to be protected and also the areas that needs to be protected across the country. In order to regulate the entire Indian ecological system the Act has laid down formation of wildlife advisory boards, wildlife wardens, specifies their powers and duties. The Act has prohibited hunting of endangered species and treating it as an offence. The Act provides for establishment of more National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, National Tiger Conservation Authority and Central Zoo Authority. The National Board for Wildlife looks after the overall wildlife projects, works as advisory to the governments, and other development matters which is formed under the Act. One of the significant changes that this Act brought was India became a signatory to become to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It is a multilateral treaty with the objective of protecting endangered animals and plants. Which is also known as the Washington Convention and was adopted as a result of a meeting of IUCN members.
Objectives of the Act
- The Act banned hunting of endangered and other exclusive species which needs to be preserved.
- It has laid down various provisions for the punishments for the violation of rules and regulations to keep an eye over the activities of human beings and to accomplish the various purposes of this Act.
- Various Schedules contained under this Act give absolute protection to some endangered species so that they can be protected.
- The Act has incorporated provisions that provide shelter and protect the animals which are not in danger but need protection and security.
- It has been laid down in the Act that to hunt animals like duck, deer which are easy targets for hunters, the same can be done only after obtaining the license from the District Officer. If the license is granted, he would be given a certain restricted area to shoot the animals and in a particular season. If he violates any such given grants that will result in the cancellation of such license.
- One of the important objectives is to make such provisions that give the powers in the hand of officers to punish the one who is guilty under this Act.
- The boards and the authorities constituted under the Act are of advisory nature so that the state government and central government to declare any area as sanctuaries or national parks.
- To plant trees and build protected animal parks so that such animals are protected in environment-friendly and natural areas.
- The Act also regulated the forest and other wildlife produce that is to be used only by the local communities.
Case Laws that regarding the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972
There are certain case laws that have come in front of the court that are as follows:
R. Simon v. Union of India:
In this case the petitioner who was in the business of manufacturer of coats, caps, and snake skin items like bags, shoes and brief cases challenged 1991 Amendment which prohibited trade in animal articles. He said that the said Act indirectly takes away fundamental right to carry on any trade or business under Art. 19(1)(g). He also said that there are certain wild animals are harmful and serve no useful purpose. Delhi High Court held that every animal is important in maintaining ecological balance and it is the duty of every Indian citizen to protect and improve the wildlife in the country. Further, no fundamental right is absolute and the same can be restricted in public interest. Wildlife protection is very much in public interest. Hence the 1991 Amendment is constitutional.
Indian Handicrafts Emporium vs. Union of India:
In this case the petitioner had challenged the constitutional validity of 1991 Amendment, which prohibited trade in imported ivory. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of this amendment under Art. 19(6). The Court observed that a trade, which is dangerous to ecology, may be regulated or totally prohibited. Balancing the social interest and the fundamental rights, a total prohibition is reasonable.
Tarun Bharat v. Union of India:
The petitioner challenged the grant of 215 mining licenses in the area declared as Tiger Reserve in Alwar district of Rajasthan. The Supreme Court cancelled all the licenses as they were given in the tiger reserve area.
Salman Khan v. State of Rajasthan:
In the recent case of famous actor Salman Khan the Jodhpur High Court upheld the constitutional values and the principle of the Act before any other factor. In 1998 the actor had killed two black bucks in Jodhpur when he with his co-actors came for the shooting of movie “Hum Saath Saath Hai”. The court in recent judgement pronounced the actor with imprisonment of five years and a fine of Rs. 10,000. The actor had four pending cases of poaching against him already. Therefore, court take cognizance of the act and punished the actor.
Assam Landmark Judgements:
In recent judgements in three cases the Assam High Court has created history. In three separate cases of killing and hunting of protected species in the Manas National Park. The Judges keeping in mind the quantum of increased cases against the wildlife, gave stringent punishment to the accussed. The Court sentenced five persons in these three cases with imprisonment of seven years and fine of Rs. 50,000 each.
Pradeep Krishen vs. Union of India:
The petitioner challenged the order of M.P. government by which permission was given to the villagers living near the sanctuaries and national parks to collect tendu leaves through contractors. In state of M.P. 11 areas have been declared as sanctuaries and national parks covering a lot of forest cover in M.P. The petitioner contended that a number of trees in these areas have been destroyed due to the entry of villagers. The Supreme Court directed the Madhya Pradesh government to take urgent steps to prohibit entry of villager and tribals in national parks and sanctuaries.
The legislature and judiciary in our country are both aware of significance of wild life. With constantly shrinking forest cover, the survival of wild life has been jeopardized. Still, we have to do our best to protect the wild life. There are many landmark cases some of them contested by the environmentalist Advocate M.C Mehta which has resulted in preservation of the environment and the wildlife. The state government time and again has failed to give effect the purposes of the Act but the judiciary in many cases such as given above step in the shoes of the state to enforce the Act and give a clear message to the offenders. The Court has cleared that no person be it the privileged ones or common man everyone is equal in eyes law.
Importance of Pug Marks in Wildlife Forensics
The wildlife animals are masters of disguise and therefore not easy for the humans to identify or spot them. But there can be some signs left behind that can help spot these animals. Pug marks are very helpful for the same. The marks that the animal leaves of his paws in the sand, mud, snow or any other impressionable surface are called as pug marks or in layman terms pug marks are the footprints of the animals. Like every human being has a distinct footprint likewise every animal has a distinct pug mark which can be used to identify the animal. The pug marks have different features and characteristics which help in such identification. The pug marks are important in order to find out various details about the animal whose pug marks are examined for instance:
The sex of the animal can be identified when measurement of the entire pug mark. Toes and pad are taken. The pug marks of a female are larger and more elongated than the male which are smaller and rounder.
The age of Pug marks can be calculated by seeing that if the dust and soil depositions of the footprints are fresh. If they are fresh then the wall of the soil, sand, or dust surrounding the imprints of toes and pads are still together giving a clear impression of a paw mark. They are almost perpendicular to each other. The bases of imprints of pug marks are smooth flat. With time, depending on whether pug marks were in some covered area or in open ground, the movements and the actions of the rays of sunlight, the rate of airflow, the dewdrops of the night, the dust deposited on the pug marks and the movement of invertebrates, the walls of the pug marks get cracks and the pile of earth that took the weight of the animal also begins to fill up with dust deposits and other droppings.
Every animal has its own movement and the way they walk which are in accordance with their body types and behaviours. For instance, animals like deer and cats spend the majority of their time walking or wandering places. Whereas, other animals like coyotes and foxes are intended for trotting. And nnumerous other animal species have their particular way of hopping, loping, or bounding styles which are very distinct and unique to that entire particular animal species. These gait patterns are a major key for how trackers interpret the behavior and even foresee future activity of animals just by contemplating trail patterns. Notwithstanding, these will also help you more strongly to recognize what animal made the trial.
- Direction where it was going.
- Time of such movement.
- To keep record of the count of animals around the country. There are various animal and other wildlife species that are undiscovered so these pug marks can be helpful to identify such animals. This test can also be done to know the presence of certain animal at certain place keeping the track of density of population of species to regulate the area accordingly.
The ecology and nature of any country is not less than any treasure and India is blessed with such diverse flora and fauna. In past few years because of the era of industrialization and modernization the loss of forest areas and therefore decreasing number of wildlife species has become a common trend. But in order to stop all this and preserve the wildlife various legislation and regulations are made. It is the duty of the state and every individual to take care of his natural environment. The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 serves the purpose of protecting, preserving the wildlife population of the country with different boards, authorities to punish those who violate these laws. The main objective of the Act is to achieve a safe and improved environment for animal kingdom of the country.
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