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Illegal Trafficking and Poaching Laws in India

Earth is the only planet known to support various forms of life, which includes of animals, birds, plants & trees, fishes, reptiles, insects and most importantly human life. But over past few decade human life have become so dominant that it started suppressing the other forms of life, this may be because we humans are more intellectually and physically developed than others and due to which we have started giving more preferences to our needs and requirements. As human population have grown so the demand of wildlife.

The lifestyle of humans now demands the fuel of wildlife in various forms like bush meats (as a source of food), leather & textile, ivory, barter of trade ( as a source of income) as well as for exotics and luxuries. The result of this is exploitation of nature which have caused extinction of animals as well as many species of birds, wild animals, fishes and reptiles have become vulnerable and endangered, leading to major imbalances in natural life.

The earth is suffering from considerable issue of ‘Illegal Wildlife Trade & Poaching’ threatening to innate gains and conservations. Wildlife crime is a commerce administering by various international and domestic networks in and among wildlife trade hotspots. The wildlife trade hotspots are countries where the illegal trade is growing and threatening, these include- China’s International Border, East and Southern Africa, Southeast Asia, Parts of Mexico, Caribbean and Latin America and Eastern Border of European Union.These are the parts of the world where there is wide spread illegal trade and poaching of animals.[1]

The term Wildlife Trafficking and Animal Trafficking means illegal trade and commerce of animals and their derivatives. This is done either internationally or domestically. Wildlife trade is major illegal trade in the world along with Narcotics, Human Trafficking and counterfeit products. Similarly, poaching is a part of wildlife trafficking. Poaching is a concern related to harm to animals caused by trapping, hunting and selling of animals from wildlife dead or alive. There are variety of products which are demanded by the trade and poaching includes Exotic pets and Luxuries, Bush meat, Traditional Medicines, Clothing & Jewellery made from animal fur, tusks, fins, shells, skins, horns and internal organs.

The impacted species are:

  • Tigers- Bengal Tiger, Amur Tiger, Indochinese Tiger, Malayan Tiger & Sumatran Tiger.
  • Rhinos- Black Rhino, White Rhino, Java Rhino, Sumatran rhino & Assamese Rhino.
  • Turtles- Green Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle & Leatherback Turtle.
  • Elephants- African Elephant & Indian Elephant


This illegal trade is estimated to be multi-billion dollar business involving the unlawful harvest and trade of live and dead animals. It is also often unsustainable. These illegal trade and poaching have caused serious imbalances in the nature, this is directly affects the biodiversity of different ecosystems. There are certain species which are in more demand by smugglers and poachers for commercial purpose their demand in the market, causing visible decline in their population in their natural habitat.

Furthermore, illegal trade negatively impact a country’s natural resources and local communities that might otherwise benefit from tours or legal sustainable trade.
In the past recent years, illegal wildlife trade has manifested as a form of organised trans-national crime that has endangered the very existence of many wild species across the globe.

In India:
In India, it includes diverse products including mongoose hair; snake skin; rhino hair; tiger & leopard claws, bone, skins, whiskers; deer antlers; turtle shells; caged birds etc. A large part of this trade is meant for the international market and has no direct demand in the country itself.

On March 2017, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change informed Parliament that poaching in India has increased in recent years. Also in a recent book “State of India’s Environment in 2017”, suggests that worrying 52% increase in poaching and wildlife trading between 2014 & 2016. Over 30,382 wildlife crimes and mortality have been recorded till December 31, 2016. Even the number of species poached or illegally traded in the country increased from 400 in 2014 to 465 in 2016.[2]

As per the survey of Wildlife Protection Society of India, in 2017 the animals which are illegally traded and poached in 2015-2016 are:

  • Black Bucks
  • Blue Bills
  • Chinkaras
  • Elephants
  • Tigers
  • Leopard
  • Peacock
  • Rhinoceros
  • Deer
  • Wild Boar
  • Indian Pangolin
  • Tokay Gecko
  • Star Tortoise
  • Hill Mynah
  • Red Sand Boa

There were more than 50 tigers poached, 340 peacocks and almost 37,267 turtles were traded which means government seized 100 turtles every day last year. Pangolins which is high demand in China for its aphrodisiac and medicinal value, remains at high threat in a country with 100,000 captured illegally every year. [3]"

Laws and Government Initiatives;
Our Indian Government have taken major initiatives in protecting and safeguarding animals.

1. Prevention Of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960:
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has released new Gazette notifications under this Act to regulate Dog breeding, Animal Markets, Aquarium and Pet ‘fish’ shop owners. The Prevention Rules 2017 are:

  1. Prevention Of Cruelty to Animals ( Care and Maintenance of Case of Property Animals) Rules 2017- if accused is convicted or pleads guilty, the magistrate shall deprive him ownership of animal and forfeit the seized animal to rehabilitation centre, infernary,or any organization.
     
  2. Pet owners or shopkeepers must register themselves with the State Animal Welfare Board of respective states.
     
  3. No Aquarium can keep house or display “any cetaceans, penguins, otters, manatees, sea turtles, marine turtles, artificially coloured fish” and other listed under WILDLIFE PROTECTION ACT, 1972 and under Appendix I of Convention Of International Trade In Endangered Species.
     
  4. Certain various cruelties that commonly take place at markets will no longer be allowed including hot branding and cold branding, mutilating animals’ ears, force-feeding animal’s fluid to make them come out fatter to fetch a better price and more[4].

Section 11(1) (a) to (o) of this Act prescribes and enumerates different forms of cruelty to animals. It provides that any crime against animals is punishable with imprisonment and fine.
Section 22 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 restricts the exhibition and training of performing animals, unless the person interested in exhibiting and training the animal is registered in accordance with provisions of the Act. No animal can be exhibited or trained, where the Central Government, by notification in the Official Gazette, has restricted the exhibition and training of such animal. These following animals can’t be exhibited or trained:

  1. Bears
  2. Monkeys
  3. Tigers
  4. Panthers
  5. Lions


2. Wildlife Protection Act, 192:
This act includes of 60 Sections, VI Schedules divided under VIII Chapters. It is one of the most important act functioning for protection of animals. It provides for authorities to administer and implement Act; regulate the hunting of wild animals, protect specified plants, sanctuaries, national parks and closed areas, restrict illegal trade and commerce in wild animals or animal articles and miscellaneous matters. Section 39 of this act specifies that any wild animal hunted, bred, fed, found, killed, alive or dead shall be property of a State Government. Section 9 of the WPA prohibits hunting of wild birds[5].

  • In Sansar v. State[6], under sec 49 and 57 of this act court did not grant relief to the notorious poacher of wild animal.
  • In GR Simon v. Union of India[7], the petition who had a business of leather material made out of snake skin questioned the Act and argued that it is a colourable legislation which is challenging the fundamental right 19 (1) (g) to carry out any trade and commerce freely. So, in this case Delhi High Court under WPA, 1972 (1991 Amendment) states that any activity which is against public interest and cause harm to society is prohibited and animals are very important part of our natural society thus they should be protected. Hence, Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (1991 Amendment) is completely constitutional.
  • Similarly in Babran Kumawat v. Union of India[8], an Ivory trader who was poaching wild elephants and was selling it in the name of Mammoth Ivory was punished under this act.

As per 2015-2016 survey the animals which were poached and illegally traded are also protected under this act; Indian Pangolin under Schedule I of WPA,1972; Tokay Gecko under Schedule IV of WPA,1972; Hill Mynah under Schedule I of WPA,1972; Star Tortoise, Species of Owl & Red Sand Boa under Schedule IV of WPA,1972.

Section 50 of WPA authorizes the Director, or the Chief Wildlife Warden or any officer authorized by them or any forest officer or any police officer not below the rank of sub-inspector to arrest any person without warrant and detain him, if the arresting officer has reasonable grounds for believing that such person has committed an offence against the WPA. Section 51(1) of the WPA stipulates that any person who contravenes any provision of Act or any rule or order made thereunder shall be guilty of an offences under this Act and shall, on conviction, be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine which may extend to twenty-five thousands rupees or with both.

  1. Indian Penal Code, 1860: Section 428 and Section 429 reads that killing, poaching, maiming, poisoning or torturing an animal is a cognizable offence and immediately FIR must be lodged in area police station. The punishment for such act is rigorous imprisonment which may extent to five years or fine or both.

    Under Section 268 a person is guilty of a public nuisance who does any act or is guilty of an illegal omission which causes any common injury, danger or annoyance to the public or to the people in general who dwell or occupy property in the vicinity or which must necessarily cause injury, obstruction, danger or annoyance to persons who may have persons who may have occasion to use any public right.
     
  2. The Performing Animals Rule, 1973 and The Performing Animals (Registration) Rule, 2001: Section 3 of The Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001, provides for Application of registration stating that any person desirous of training or exhibiting performing animals has to apply for registration to the prescribed authority. Without being registered such a person is not allowed to exhibit or train any animal as a performing animal. Apart from this, Section 8 of The Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001 lays down general conditions for registration, which the prescribed authority while granting registration may impose such terms and conditions.
     
  3. Constitution of India: Under Article 51A (g), it is a fundamental duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve natural environment including forests, lake, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.


Apart from above mentioned laws and acts there are various other laws such as; Transport of Animals Rules, 1978; Local Municipal Corporation Acts; Experiments on Animals (Control and Supervision) Rules, 1968 etc.
Also, The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules, 2001, provides that no one can slaughter animals in slums, in roadside meat shops or in dhabas or in private houses. Animal sacrifice is illegal. The act of animal sacrifices is covered under Local Municipal Corporation Acts, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, Indian Penal Code (IPC).

It is also specifically forbidden in the following states under The Prohibition of Bird and Animal Sacrifice Act:

  1. Andhra Pradesh
  2. Gujarat
  3. Karnataka
  4. Kerala
  5. Pondicherry
  6. Rajasthan
  7. Tamil Nadu

Thus, these are various initiatives which are taken by Indian Government in order to protect all animals including wild and endangered birds and animals. There are also some organizations which are working hand in hand with the Government, one of the largest organization is PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) India is a Charitable Company incorporated under section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956.[10]

Conclusion:
Although there are many international and national organization as well as various laws and initiatives taken by the government but there are still increasing number of wildlife crimes in past decades. The reason behind is that corruption, toothless laws, weak judicial systems and light sentences allow criminal networks to keep plundering wildlife with little regard to consequences. These factors make illegal wildlife trade a low risk business with high returns. The poachers—often poor locals—are the usually the only ones caught, leaving the real masterminds and their network safe and operational with the ability to strike again. All animals and birds are part of our natural society, it is our responsibility to take care of them, protect and safeguard them.

End-Notes:

  1. https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/illegal-wildlife-trade
  2. Kiran Pandey Rajit Sengupta, https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/30-382-wildlife-crimes-recorded-in-india-58343. 26 July 2017.
  3. Survey 2017, Wildlife Protection Society.
  4. 27 May 2017, PETA https://www.petaindia.com/blog/india-passes-new-rules-protect-animals/
  5. Wildlife Protection Act,1972.
  6. (1994) IAD Delhi 13, 1994 (28) DRJ 281
  7. AIR 1997 Del. 267
  8. AIR 2003 SC 3268
  9. Animal Protection Laws For The Guidance of Police, Hawos, Ngos And AWOs; https://awbi.org/awbi-pdf/APL.pdf
  10. https://www.petaindia.com/

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