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Reviewing The Legal Framework For The Conservation Of Endangered Species In India

Wildlife is the collective name for all non-domesticated plants and animals, and all the habitats with different organisms where humans have no intervening influence. In these diverse species, its members live in different types of ecosystems, the forests and steppes. In each ecosystem, there are specific communities of animals. Nevertheless, with the evolution of human society, the tendency of the human race to wild animals and plant domestication to serve its needs has become that much more evident.

Thus, the ecosystem undergoes significant changes. Most wild animals have adjusted appropriately and now share dwellings with humans as domesticated animals. Everyday ones such as dogs, cats, pigs and that kind. Moreover, the tremendous increase in human activities and (building) projects has resulted in multiple environmental issues. The nature reserve activity for human comfort and enjoyment is on the rise, endangering the ecosystem and biodiversity. Once the human presence assumes an overwhelming role, the complex game of maintaining human-related activities and preservation of wildlife becomes more perilous.

Endangered species are those that are on the verge of extinction, mainly caused by the actions of human beings such as habitat loss or genetic decline. The wildlife of India is diverse and spread from the desert to the sea, in the forests and the grasslands. In order to maintain the rich biodiversity, India has set up the national parks, bio-reserves and sanctuaries which currently adds up to 104 national parks, 18 bio-reserves and about 514 sanctuaries. On the other hand, the practices of people for example the usage of polybags are a real hazard for living beings.

The wildlife conservation is functional to prevent the degradation of the plants and animals in nature by managing the governmental and non-governmental efforts for the purpose. The British initiated the first wildlife protection enactments in India with the Wild Bird Protection Act, later developed in 1935. Then India Enacted the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) in 1972, which was a fundamental framework for species conservation. This act, since that has seen some amendments over the years to adapt the changing needs.

India's constitution envisages protection of the nation's natural heritage recognizing its role and importance through Sections 48, 48A and 51A(g). Moreover, the legal regime is made up of a variety of legal instruments such as the Indian Penal Code, Indian Forest Act, Customs Act, Forest (Conservation) Act, CITES, Environment Protection Act, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, and Arms Act which have the aim of protecting wildlife.

However, the conservation efforts can not be achieved with the legal frameworks only, they call for public participation and a culture change alike. Be it the varied natural heritage of this country or the richness of its flora and fauna, these must be conserved. Along with the challenges of industrialization, westernization, and militarization increasingly, it is an unforgivable mistake to let those precious wildlife treasures be sacrificed.

Legal Framework For The Conservation Of Endangered Species

Indian govt. has launched multiple programs to save and guard endangered animals from dying out, especially in conjunction with the alarming rise of poaching that endangered the lives of many animal species. to mention a few:

The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972:

This act lays down as the most important of the laws that were passed by the Parliament of India. The act is intended to protect endangered species which consist of animals, birds, and plants. Furthermore, all activities related to hunting are also subjected to restrictive regulations. With time new amendments were made to solve the emerging conservation issues, with the last amendment of 2006 being the latest one.

Salient features of WPA, 1972:

  • Establishment of wildlife advisory boards and inclusion of wildlife wardens in charge of specifying their authority and role.
  • India's involvement in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a multilateral treaty that protects endangered animals and plants by regulation of international trade is another important aspect.
  • For the first time in the country, the preparation of an extensive inventory of endangered wildlife.
  • Hunting ban of the endangered species and trade on scheduled animals prohibition.
  • Licensing system for sale, transfer, and possession of wild species only.
  • The development of wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, and other areas is essential.
  • Formation of the Central Zoo Authority, a body set to supervise all zoos in India, was marked in 1992.
  • Organism classification into six schedules, each with different levels of protection, Schedule I and Schedule II (Part II) being the ones with the highest protection and the most severe punishments.
  • Establishment of the National Board for Wildlife, headed by the Prime Minister, which is responsible for formulating wildlife conservation policies and reviewing wildlife-related projects.
  • Creating the National Tiger Conservation Authority under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change which has the mandate of giving the Project Tiger launched in 1973 to protect endangered tigers power of a statutory body.

Protected areas under WPA:

  1. Sanctuaries:
    • These settings are protected locations where vulnerable animal species can flee from poaching, hunting, and predation.
    • Over here, animals are left in peace with a freedom from uninvited disturbance and exploitation, and human activities like timber harvesting are permitted, but they should be done carefully to avoid any harm to the animals.
    • Sanctuaries' gates are, somehow, open to the public, yet a barricade and a key to entry with limited access control also if, of course, managed by the Chief Wildlife Warden.
    • For instance: Chhari Wild Ass Sanctuary, near the Gujarat state and Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, in Tamil Nadu.
  2. National Parks:
    • These national parks are parts of land which are put under the national governments´ control to ensure that the environmental conditions are stricter as compared to the sanctuaries.
    • Their purpose is environmental protection, that is, preserving landscapes, plants and animals in their natural state, and banning all human activities including, grazing, hunting and so on.
    • Delineation of boundaries is put in place, and motions necessitate rigid legislative approval.
    • Some of the stunningly beautiful places like Bandipur National Park in Karnataka and Kaziranga National Park in Assam are worthy of mention.
  3. Conservation Reserves:
    • Such zones or areas that are earmarked by the state governments in the vicinity of aquatic sanctuaries or parks and following consultation with the locals come under such areas allocated for conservation purposes.
  4. Community Reserves:
    • In their turn, state governments are now legally capable of declaring private or community lands as community reserves and only after consultations with local communities or individuals who are motivated and committed to wildlife conservation.
  5. Tiger Reserves:
    • These are places set aside for catering to the security and for acquiring the tiger population.
    • Their existence is commissioned by suggestions from the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
    • It is uncertain whether they will involve independent groups with scientific expertise or just task-specific committees.

Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980:

Forests offer essential natural resources generously given to humankind by nature. Consequently, we all have a moral duty to preserve these ecosystems. At the same time, the speedy termination of forests has disturbed the intricate stability of nature increasing the need to establish laws to defend forests.

The most democratic legislative act to secure forests was passed in 1865 and it covered the territory of the whole country by 1927 per the Indian Forest Act of 1927. But this law has functions only to support the business interests of the British Empire in India.

The Act in question was a piece of legislation that thrust the responsibility of forestry matters on the British authorities so that they could impose taxation on timber utilization and forest services, hence the attention was focused on controlling extraction and material flow as opposed to conservation.

After attaining independence, the President of India issued the Forest (Conservation) Ordinance in 1980 and it was further replaced by the Forest (Conservation) Act, also in 1980. This Act put in forces prohibiting to use of forests for purposes not related to forests.

Objectives of FCA, 1980:

  1. Conserving forests, forested areas, and abundant flora, fauna, and the set of diverse elements that form the ecological integrity of forests, maintaining the integrity, and the territorial integrity is necessary.
  2. Focusing on ending the degradation of forest biodiversity.
  3. Preventing forest lands from being converted to agricultural lands; or lands that are used for grazing or if they are meant for any other commercial intention.

Features of FCA, 1980:

  1. The Act specifies a federalist structure where the decentralized units cannot make decisions on their own without prior permission from the central authority.
  2. It provides for unlimited powers to the Union in order to execute the proposal in the act.
  3. Penalties for damages when the Forest Conservation Act is not followed do apply.
  4. The act creates a purely advisory committee whose prime mandate is to facilitate the Central government in the areas of forest preservation.

Environment Protection Act, 1986:

The first Constitution of India did not contain any such provisions that would protect the natural environment, in comparison to many other countries. On the other hand, the 42nd Amendment Fundamental Duties was adopted which signified that both own people and nonhuman counterparts have to be in maintenance along with flora, fauna, forest, and water. The Constitution was amended again with the 42nd Amendment, which added further Directive Principles of State Policy, such as Article 48A (it matters that the government not only maintains and develops ecology, but also takes separate measures for forest conservation and wildlife protection as well). These developments come in answer to the results of the United Nations' 1972 Conference on Human Environment, which was held in Stockholm.

Constitution of India:

The Constitution of India functions as the Supreme legal document of India which defines fundamental political principles, citizen duties and rights, directive principles for the state, governmental procedures, structures and powers. The policy is called "a breathing document" which is dynamic to the changing tastes of the society. It is true that it holds the distinction of being the longest-written constitution in the world. It has 395 articles which are placed into 22 parts, along with 12 schedules. The Constitution entrenches the supremacy of constitutional, therefore, the Indian Parliament cannot override its basic structure. Furthermore, the Indian Constitution describes animal welfare as a crucial issue, which is why it obliges citizens to protect and use animals in a humane manner. Animal protection laws in India are demarcated across segments such as Fundamental Rights (Part III), Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV), Fundamental Duties (Part IV-A), allocation of powers between unions and states (The 7th Schedule) and judicial power placed in the courts (Articles 141 and 144).
  1. Fundamental Rights:
    According to the Indian Constitution, fundamental rights in Part III which are considered to be crucial for an individual's survival and development have been protected. For example, the covered aspects are the Right to Equality, Freedom, and Protection against Exploitation among others. Invading these rights are regarded as serious, individuals having access to the Supreme Court independently under Article 32.

    Article 21, namely the Right to Life, states that no human, in the name of his life or personal liberty, can be deprived without lawful and necessary procedures. This article is treated in the same vein as a seal on the life preserve, where the Supreme Court has made generous interpretations of it. This understanding goes on to include rights such as being entitled to food, and accommodation, as well as the right to education.

    Within the context of animal rights, Article 21 has gained an extent of aptitude to some animal welfare concerns, particularly in the case of Animal Welfare Board of India vs. A. Nagaraja and Others.

    Animal Welfare Board Of India vs A. Nagaraja & Ors[1]
    In the case of the Animal Welfare Board of India vs A. Nagaraja & Ors., the Supreme Court was asked what should be done about the sport of Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu which is famous and traditional. This is a sport where the participants have to hold the bull for a self-preservation effort, which usually results in the death of humans or cruelty against animals.

    AWBI launched the case in 2010 and obtained a ban on Jallikattu being the main reason for this. In contrast, even though the Ministry of Nature and Forestry issued the ban in 2011, Jallikattu persisted in operating under certain criteria described in the Tamil Nadu Act of Jallikattu Regulation (2007). The AWBI sought an offence of the High Court decreeing Jallikattu complies with the state regulation.

    The Supreme Court, in agreement with the AWBI, affirmed the suspension of Jallikattu event. It stated Article 51A (g) of the Constitution is the core right protection area for animals and introduced some observations on the constitution of just "life" under Article 21.

    The protection of the right to life of animals.

    The Supreme Court, when viewing Article 21 in the light, asserted that a species, even animals, holds a fundamental right to the life and security of a person under the rule of law. The Art. 21 not only ratifies the human rights constitution but also seems to include putting life in a wider area out of all the forms that are necessary for a human existence. The court placed an emphasis on understanding that "life" cited in Article 21 comprises both the meaning of survival and the idea of having a life with dignity, worth, and honour. It reiterates that they are entitled to more than the right of existence or to being exploited by humans. They have a right to life that also respects their intrinsic value.
  2. Directive Principles of State Policy:
    DPSP or Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) contains 15 principles that are found in Part IV (Articles 37-51) of the Constitution to act as a guiding framework for the State and government decision-making. These duties contrast to the enforceable Fundamental Rights, but they are the vital principles that formulate laws and policies for viable establishment of a just society.

    Article 48: This article clearly states that the government should organize the agriculture as well as the cattle breeding system on very modern and scientific terms, whereby the cow milk, calf and other milch and draught cattle are well taken care of.

    Article 48A: The main idea as presented in this article is to conserve and maintain nature so that present and next generations will have the pleasure of having rich forests and wildlife.

    42 Amendment Act, Article 48A, is the Directive principles that stiles for the welfare of the environment and the preservation of forests and wildlife as well. The present article strictly demands the state to take steps toward the ecological conservation and preservation of wildlife.

    Being unenforceable individually, article 48A can potentially become enforceable under Article 21, which is the right to life.

    The M.C. Mehta v. Union of India[2] (2002)
    The case highlighted the Supreme Court's ruling where Article 48A came under scrutiny and the relationship between it and public health was brought to light. The Court went on to mention that the state should have a duty of ensuring public health, improving it and, finally, preserving, and at the same time, improving the environment under Articles 39, 47, and 48A.
  3. Fundamental Duties:
    Fundamental Duties of Indian citizens, as defined in Article 51A of the Constitution together with Article 29(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, were incorporated into the existing structure with the 42nd Amendment of 1976. Admittedly, they are not enforceable in the courts; however, they do form the element of reference for the interpretation of the fundamental legal provisions, both constitutional and others.
In relation to animal rights, Article 51A emphasises the duty of citizens: In relation to animal rights, Article 51A emphasises the duty of citizens:

It shall be the duty of every citizen of India:
(g) to preserve and implement sustainable management of the natural ecosystem, for example, forests, lakes, rivers, and animals, as well as to develop positive dispositions towards life universally.

(h) to inspire a scientific mindset, bring our need for art, music and humanity and finally, nurture the spirit of inquiry and reform.

Article 51-A (g) suggests the generation of the public concerned about the surroundings and tenderness towards all life forms must be developed. In terms of this issue as addressed in the Animation Welfare Board of India against A. Nagarajan & Ors. case. In the documentary, I AM (2014), phenomenal compassionate awareness surfaces the narrative that the majority of us might be unknowingly contributing to the suffering and misery of animals. The Apex Court in the instant case comments that the said two articles in Part III - Article 51(A) (g) and (h) - are regarded as the ultimate basis of animal rights' jurisprudence in India.

State of Gujarat v. Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kassab Jamat and Others (2005)[3]
The question raised was 'whether a religious means of slaughtering (zabih halal), which has a practiced for thousands of years, violates certain right of animals for a dignified death, which is a humane thing to do in our times to honor animals' dignity. In its 2005 judgment on the NCERT Textbooks (State of Tamil Nadu), the Court affirmed that Article 51A must be read along with Articles 48 and 48A in order to give full effect to the literal meaning of all these provisions including 51A.

National Bodies For Conservation Of Species

India is well known for its extensive biodiversity, having an abundance of ecosystems, habitats and species in its fold. Being a center of various species of flora and fauna, the country is entitled to preserve its natural wealth. To cope with this challenge, several national bodies in that area have been created, and each one of them plays a key role in the species conservation of the Indian subcontinent. These organizations exploit a variety of avenues ranging from policy formulation to practical implementation to ensure the survival of wildlife and habitat.

National Biodiversity Authority:

  • The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, which is under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, was established by the central government in 2003 under Section 8 of the Biological Diversity Act (2002), India.
  • The primary role of NBA is to offer recommendations to the Government of India concerning the conservation of biodiversity, sage consumption of its constituents and balanced shares of benefits that are obtained from biological resources exploitation.
  • The NBA has a duty to protect foreign and NRI's access to biological diversity, including the country's entitlements of commercial benefit and intellectual property, which are used to disseminate them amongst all stakeholders, especially the local communities.

State Biodiversity Board:

  • The State Biodiversity Boards (SBB's) which are statutory bodies established under the Biodiversity Act offer advice to the State Government on matters surrounding biodiversity and its just distribution and utilization in alignment with the central government boards but mainly to vet and permit commercial utilization of biological resources as provided for in the biodiversity act by Section 23.

National Tiger Conservation Authority:

  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is a corpus body under the control of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. The amendment of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 in 2006 included provisions regarding the formation of the NTCA as well.

Objectives of the National Tiger Conservation Authority:

  • Giving power to Project Tiger in order that all its recommendations are followed through to the finish without any loopholes.
  • Promoting responsibility at the level of tiger reserves either through the state or Central governments by establishing a legal basis of operation within the structure of the federation.
  • Integrating the livelihood of people in areas of Tiger Reserves.

Duties and attributes of the NTCA:

  1. Consider and determine sustainable ecology as a criterion while prohibiting ecologically horrible activities like mining not to be carried out within the Tiger Reserve's proximity.
  2. Give data on protection procedures like the future conservation plan, the number of tigers and their natural predator species, and also untoward incidents that include illegal ones like poaching and unexpected incidences.
  3. Provide with the necessary assistance in the form of scientific, information technology and legal support for the easy attribution of the conservation plan.
  4. Continue the capacity building program regularly and specifically for the skill development of tiger reserve officers and employees.
  5. Make and develop the tiger reserve management in the state for the conservation of biodiversity through people participation and collaborative efforts of the Central and State governments by supporting similar activities in adjacent areas subject to the Central and State laws.
  6. Provide Tiger Conservation in India with essential services as scientific, information technology and legal support for the more successful introduction of the tiger conservation plan.

Legal Loopholes- Challenges To Conservation Of Endangered Species

  1. Ambiguous Definitions Issue: The Act at times describes important terms in a blurry way involving terms like "wildlife habitat", "endangered species", and "poaching". Such ambiguity results between the parties involved in a document, making enforcing it difficult. Implication: When loopholes are involved, the criminals may be evading prosecution or be given a lesser punishment.
  2. Other Related Legal Issues Issue: There is a concurrence between the Wild Animal Protection Act and other ecological and forest laws, thus this produces uncertain actions and disputes in the jurisdiction. Implication: It causes difficulties with court proceedings such as court cases and makes it difficult to fight crimes against wildlife.
  3. Inadequate Penalties: Issue: For some violations, the penalties determined by the law of the Act could be out of proportion to the gravity of the action. For instance, if there are scarcely or endangered species at risk, such sanctions might seem too harsh to the convicted. Implication: Implementation of possibilities in exercise that does not foresee significant punishment for potential violators means that species conservation tools are not as effective.
  4. Inadequate Approach to neutralizing the new methods of poachers. Issue: Just like hunting, which requires the use of drones or cyber trading, Act standards often do not measure up to modern poaching methods and technologies. Implication: Such creates a gap or a legal loophole with the existing legal framework that can be exploited by cyber criminals for the purpose of avoiding prosecution.
  5. Shortage of Protected Habitat Areas: Issue: Whereas the means of preserving animals are covered by the law, the law sometimes falls short of adequately reinforcing their ecosystems, thus not dealing with problems such as habitat fragmentation and environmental pollution among others. Implication: Without comprehensive ecosystem protection whilst the maintenance of healthy space being the target, the conservation plan might not be entirely successful as animals can only be sustained in an antibiotic environment.
  6. Deficiency of Communication - Engagement Clauses: Issue: However, the Act fails to identify this role of locals communities in effective wildlife conservation or lacks specific Suggestions for engagement and empowerment of local communities. Implication: The target of this policy is clear-community-based conservation, which can be are usually highly effective as compared to wildlife and habitat protection.
  7. On Mitigation Efforts the main weigh is upon: Challenges in enforcement mechanism. Issue: Besides midrange issues, there is a problem with the specific enforcement body, for instance, not well-trained officers and the absence of up-to-date equipment. Implication: It could prompt unproductive monitoring and law enforcement that might even protect these illegal activities, hence them to continue.
  8. The Prevailing Difficulties in the Wildlife Genocide boards: Issue: Wildlife crimes, plus the idea that they cross state, as well as national borders daily, but jurisdictional issues can add to the problem of investigating, and prosecuting these crimes. Implication: Cross-jurisdictional crimes due the difficulties of coordination that are often not possible when the current legal system is applicable, therefore the loopholes in the lawful process/procedure are enormous.
In conclusion, the legal regime for endangered species in India which guarantees that the country's valuable biodiversity heritage is secured infers the nation's will to conserve its rich biodiversity. Through the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 and the amendments that were passed thereafter, India has put in effect a strong institutional setup to safeguard endangered species and their habitats. The formation of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) shows the government's innovative and proactive attitude in solving biodiversity challenges.

Also, the participation of the judiciary in the form of landmark decisions improves the enforcement of wildlife laws and resultantly the judiciary becomes accountable. Nevertheless, in addition to enacting legislative measures, the Indian conservation scenario is intricate and still bears a lot of risks such as habitat loss, poaching and human-wildlife conflicts that require continuous surveillance and an approach of innovation. Consequently, the legal framework contributes to a sound foundation for conservation, but cooperation between governmental organizations, civil society, and local groups is paramount to preserve the nation's legacy of endangered species in the long run.

  1. Wildlife Conservation In India: Issues and Challenges by Vikas Kumar Soni, Journal of Interdisciplinary Cycles Research, ISSN NO: 0022-1945
  2. Analysis and evaluation of wildlife conservation laws and policies in India by Vikas Kumar Soni, International Journal of Research and Analytical Reviews, E-ISSN 2348-1269, P- ISSN 2349-5138, Volume 7, Issue 4, 2020
  3. Historical Development of Wildlife Protection in India by Dr. M. Velmurugan, International Journal of Current Research and Modern Education, ISSN NO: 2455-5428, Volume 2 issue 2, 2017
  4. Laws for protection of Wildlife In India: Need for an awareness Towards implementation and effectiveness by A. Samant Singhar, Indian forester, 2002
  5. National Tiger Conservation Authority,
  6. State Biodiversity Boards: Analysis of Functions and Powers by
  1. Animal Welfare Board of India V. A. Nagaraja and others, 2014 7 SCC 547
  2. M.C. Mehta V. Union Of India, 2002 (2) SCR 963
  3. State of Gujarat v. Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kassab Jamat and Others AIR 2006 Supreme Court 212

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Harshmita Sharma
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