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Wildlife Protection Act 1972

The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 provides for the protection of the listed species of flora and fauna and creates a network of ecologically important protected areas. The law consists of 66 sections and VI schedules, which are divided into eight chapters. The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 gives central and state governments the power to designate any area as a nature reserve, national park, or closed area. There is a complete ban on carrying out commercial activities in these protected areas.

The authorities are required to oversee and execute the act; control the hunting and poaching of wild animals, protection of certain plants, protected areas, national parks and closed areas, restrict trade in wild animals or objects of animal origin, and various matters. The law prohibits hunting of animals, except with the permission of an authorized officer, when an animal has become dangerous to human life or property, or is disabled or sick and cannot recover.

Since the dawn of mankind, humans have always crossed the confines of the animal world for its survival. In the early days, humans sacrificed wildlife for food, clothing, and shelter, as well as other basic needs. Presently, the ever demanding approach of humans have done a lot of damage to wildlife as well as forests. Humans have become an important evolutionary force, and while we do not have the knowledge to control the biosphere, we certainly have the power to radically change and destroy it.

The Government of India implemented the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 with the purpose of efficiently protecting the wildlife of this country and further controlling hunting, smuggling and illegal trade in wild animals and their derivatives. This act came into effect on September 9, 1972.

In 1976, the environment received its provision under the Constitution of India in the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution. For environmentalists, it is characterized by the fact that the environment is part of the constitution. The Wildlife Act of 1972 was the first general law to set schedules for the protection of various plant and animal species. Hence, the act provides for the protection of wildlife, plants, and birds, and related or additional or incidental matters.

Under the act, India's central government will set up the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), which will serve as the lead body for reviewing all wildlife-related issues and approving projects in and around national parks and protected areas. The NBWL is directed by the Prime Minister and is responsible for promoting the protection and development of wildlife and forests. The Minister for the Environment, Forests and Climate Change is the Vice-President of the Board of Directors. The board is by nature "advisory" and can only advise the government on the formulation of guidelines for the protection of wildlife.

As per the study of Wildlife Protection Society of India, in 2017 some of the wild animals which are illegally traded and poached in 2015-2016 are- Black Bucks, Blue Bills, Chinkaras, Elephants, Tigers, Peacock, Rhinoceros, Deer, Wild Boar etc.

In India, attempts were made a long ago to save wildlife through implementing the Indian Forests Act of 1927, which placed hunting restrictions in protected forests. Before that, in order to protect wild birds, Britishers had implemented Bird Protection Act, 1887. Presently, Section 51A (g) of the Constitution of India fundamentally obliges every Indian citizen to protect and improve the country's wildlife.

History Of Wildlife Protection In India

India is very rich with flora and fauna in its forests. Indian forests are state-owned. India is one of the world's twelve mega-biodiversity countries. India's forest act and regulations have played a crucial role in the deforestation process. The "tragedy of the commons" argument is a chief factor for the state-property rights regime.

In ancient India, protecting the environment was a moral and ethical duty imposed on people by religious scriptures, seers, and other organizations. The scriptures of the Hindu religion emphasize the protection of the environment and living beings. Various plant and animal species were considered to be the domicile of the gods. Kautilya, one of the great political philosophers, banned and imposed penalties for killing animals, cutting trees, and overexploiting natural resources.

Indian wildlife has had periodic protection for over a century, thanks to a variety of species-specific regulations. Most early statutes were primarily intended to protect game animals from being hunted. The Indian Forest Act of 1927 established sanctuaries and provided rules for hunting limitations in reserved or guarded forests.

The provisions for environmental protection in the constitution were made within four years of Stockholm Conference, in 1976, though the 42nd amendment as follows:
  • Article 48-A of the constitution provides:
    The state shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard forest and wildlife of the country.
  • Article 51-A (g) of the constitution provides:
    It shall be duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.

As a result, one of our fundamental duties under our constitution is to protect and conserve the environment. Some of the most significant Acts passed by the Government of India are covered in this section.

The passage of the Wildlife Act of 1972 was a watershed moment in the country's wildlife legislation history. This is because the Forest including Wildlife was then a State subject falling under Entry 20 List II of the Seventh Schedule, Parliament had no power to make laws on the subject except as provided in Articles 249, 250, and 252 of the constitution.
There are many legislations and acts implemented for the protection of wild life.

Some of them are:
  • The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972;
  • The Wild Life (Transactions and Taxidermy) Rules, 1973;
  • The Wild Life (Stock Declaration) Central Rules, 1973;
  • The Wild life (Protection) Licensing (Additional Matters for Consideration) Rules, 1983
  • The Wild Life (Protection) Rules, 1995;
  • The Wild Life (Specified Plants - Conditions for Possession by Licensee) Rules, 1995;
  • Forest Conservation Act, 1980; Forest (Conservation) Rules, 1981;
  • National Forest Policy, 1988; Biological Diversity Act, 2002;
Besides these Acts, there are many legislations on Air, Water, Environment, Hazardous substance management, Solid waste management, Noise Pollution prevention, Project Tiger, 1973; Project Elephant, 1991 and so on.

The main reasons for implementing this act were that India has been facing a rapid reduction in birds and wild-animals. They are the richest and most varied wildlife resources of India and which had given a rise to serious burden. There are many animals and birds that have been extinct for a long time and some are on the verge of being extinct.

Wildlife Protection Act, 1972

This part reads out the definitions and restrictions of the implementation of the act.

Previously the act was restricted to all parts of the country except of Jammu and Kashmir. After revoking article 370 in 2019, the act is now implemented in Jammu and Kashmir as well. This chapter defines all the terms and details of the artefacts which are considered illegal now.

For examples: captive animals, circus, closed areas, forest officer, reserved forest, sanctuary, zoo etc. Trading, hunting, capturing, poisoning of any wild animal is considered a punishable offence.

Chapter 2
This chapter provides all the appointment of the advisory committee, wildlife warden, their powers and duties.

The federal government appoints the Chief Wildlife Warden, Director and Assistant Directors of Wildlife Preservation and other officers and workers that may be necessary. In order to exercise their power, the director may give orders and directions from time to time. All the assistants and other officers are subordinates to the director.

The power of delegate can be given to a subordinate officer by the director with the permission of the federal government. The same can be performed by the Chief Wildlife Warden with the approval of the state government.

Once the act is commenced the state government or administrator, in case of union territory appoints a Wildlife Advisory Board. The state government or Union territories appoint officers and secretary and ministers to be in charge of the forests in those particular areas.

The advisory board is supposed to hold meetings at least twice a year, approved by the state government. The role of the board is to advice the state in selection of the areas and forest that should be declared sanctuaries, closed areas, national parks and so on, and formulating plans and policies to protect such areas. They also take measures for the welfare of the tribal people and other dwellers in protecting the wildlife.

Chapter 3
This chapter deals with the hunting of animals. It prohibits the hunting of wild animals. Although hunting of animals is permitted in certain cases- if the chief wildlife warden agrees that a certain wild animal (listed in Schedule 1) is dangerous to man-life or disabled or diseased that cannot be recovered, then with the given permission and order in writing and stating the reason the animal has to be hunted.

Likewise, if an animal (listed in Schedule 2, Schedule 3 or Schedule 4) has become a danger to mankind and to property, such animals with the order and permission of the chief wildlife warden, the gives authority to a person to hunt that animal. If an animal is hurt or wounded by a person during self-defence, it will not be considered an offence and that animal would then be considered government�s property.

Hunting of animals can be granted for special reasons such as scientific research, scientific management, education and collection for specimen.
The chief wildlife warden can suspend or revoke the license of an officer or worker for a good reason which is to be recorded in writing and it should be considered with the state government.

Chapter 3A
This chapter provides the rules for the protection of specified flora. It says anyone who cuts, destroys, wilfully pluck or pick specified plants from the forest area and trade them dead or alive are liable to the central government. Uprooting of plants whether dead or alive without permission for personal use is considered illegal. Although permission can be granted with a previous permission from the state government for plucking, uprooting flora in case of scientific advancements, education or diffusing the plants by an individual or an organisation.

No individual is allowed to plant a tree in the forest area without the permission of chief wildlife warden or an authorised officer approved by the state government. A licensed individual cannot start a business as a dealer in certain flora. If an individual was already in a business as a dealer of flora before the commencement of the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 1991(sixty days before the commencement) that individual has to gain a licence from the government in order to continue with it. Every granted licence has a specific area in which they can plant a tree and the conditions are subjected to it.

Any individual who was trading specific flora, dead or alive, has to inform the warden or an official authorised by the state government after thirty days from the commencement of the act.

An individual, cannot keep the flora, dead or alive, or illegally obtained or acquire, offered to sell or sold in his/her control without informing the warden or the officer authorised by the state except if the license has been granted to them.

Acquiring, receiving or buy of specific flora apart from a licensed individual is considered illegal.

If any part of the flora and fauna taken or acquired illegally from the forest area fall under the responsibility of the state government and if such a thing happens in national parks or sanctuaries, it falls under the responsibility of the federal government.

Chapter 4


The state government can declare a specific land as sanctuary where it thinks that the particular land has flora and fauna and ecological values. A collector is appointed who checks whether that particular land belongs to someone or not and they shall regulate the existence of wild animals and plants.

If an individual claims a right on a particular piece of land, partly or wholly the collector can either exclude such a part of land from the limits of the proposed sanctuary or the claimant and the government have an agreement where the claimant agrees to give the piece of land to the government or if he claims any right on that piece of land, to the collector with two months of the commencement of the notice, that person by specifying the nature of the will or details can claim a compensation, under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

There are certain powers or rights given to the collector such as, they may enter that land conduct a survey, distinguish and even set up a map for the same or authorise any officer to do so.

A land which consists of flora, fauna and zoological and natural significance is required to be included in the sanctuary. The state shall declare the limits of the specified area for the sanctuary and declare it as a sanctuary to a period specified in the circular. If the land consists of territorial waters, a permission of the federal government is required to declare that piece of land as a sanctuary. The limits of the territorial water which is to be included in the sanctuary should be consulted with the Chief Naval Hydrographer of the Central Government and estimate to protect water for the occupational fishermen.

There are certain restrictions on the entry in the sanctuary. The people who can enter the sanctuary are a servant who is on duty, any person passing through the highway, a person who has permission to stay, by the warden or any authorised officer, an individual who has rights to the immovable property inside the sanctuary. The permission can be given for photography, scientific research, tourism, study of wildlife and transactional business with someone residing in the sanctuary.

There are certain restrictions for the people who reside in the sanctuary. If a felony has been performed, the people have to arrest the wrongdoer. They have to inform the chief warden or any authorised officer about the death of a certain animal. No person is allowed to move, destroy, change the boundaries of the sanctuary or to cause wrongful profits. It is a felony in the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).

Decisions regarding construction of bridges, fences, roads and buildings or any other work necessary for the sanctuary. He shall take precautions for the safety of animals and plants. He can take steps for the improvements of flora and fauna. Grazing and movements of live stocks might be regulated. In case of any communicable diseases, the livestock have to be immunised within five kilometres of a sanctuary. No person is allowed to graze live stocks without getting vaccinated.

National Parks

Any land with ecological, geographical, or zoologically importance within the sanctuaries or beyond it can be considered a National park by the state government, by providing a notification which provides the limits of the land, to preserve the environment and the flora and fauna surviving within it.

The state government has all the rights on the proposed land for the national park. If an individual claims right on that land, he has the same just as the sanctuaries claimants do. The state government has to authority to take decisions for the management and welfare of the flora and fauna in the national park.

Alterations and changings in the boundaries can be made only if the Legislation of the particular State passes a resolution.

Destroying or exploiting the flora and fauna is not allowed except when the state government allows for the welfare and improvement of the National Park. Grazing of live stock is strictly prohibited inside the National Park except where live stock is used as a vehicle by the people who are authorised to enter it.

There are certain restrictions for the people who reside in the national park. An individual is bound to prevent any crime against the rules of this act. If a felony has been performed, the people have to arrest the wrongdoer. They have to inform the chief warden or any authorised officer about the death of a certain animal.

To stop any fire, if he has the information of within the sanctuary and to help the chief wildlife warden and the police officers to prevent further crime in the national park. No person is allowed to move, destroy, change the boundaries of the national park or to cause wrongful profits. It is a felony in the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860). No person is allowed to tease or torture any animal, littering the national park.

Closed Area

By circulars the state government can declare a land closed for hunting for a stated amount of time in the circular.

Chapter 4A

Central Zoo Authority And Recognition Of Zoos

The central government has to form an authority Central Zoo Authority which will to perform the functions given by the central government. The authority consists of Chairman and members (less than ten) and the federal government will elect the Member- Secretary.

The allowances of the members and chairman and member-secretary would be prescribed. If the Authority seems to need extra man-power they can employ such officers, permission to be granted by the federal government. The terms and conditions of which would be prescribed. The functions of the authority are to maximise the care and housing of zoo animal, to recognise the non-recognised zoos and like them its identity, to maintain the standards of the zoos, to ensure the display of animals in various themes, provide scientific and technical assistance etc.

The authority can meet when necessary or when the chairman thinks fit. It shall regulate its own proceedings and the decisions made by shall be verified with the member-secretary and or an officer appointed by him.

The authority will receive funds from the federal government known as the Central Zoo Authority Fund which can be used for meeting the allowances of the workers and officers. The accounts of which should be prepared and the final report should be submitted to the federal government annually.

A zoo cannot operate if it is not recognised by the Authority. If a zoo was there before the commencement of the act, then they have to apply for registration, on payment of fees, within eighteen months, if it is approved then the zoo can stay if not, they have to close the zoo with six months. The zoo can only be recognised only if it maintains its protection of animals, welfare and standards. If the standards are not maintained the zoo will further unrecognised.

An appeal from an order refusing to recognise a zoo under sub-section (5) or an order suspending or cancelling a recognition under sub-section (6) shall lie to the Central Government Provided, however, that the Federal Government may admit any appeal filed after the expiry of the aforementioned period (thirty days) if it is satisfied that the appellant had justifiable justification for not filing the appeal.

Transferring of wild animal from one place to another is prohibited except when federal government allows. The sanitation of the zoo is to be maintained. No one is allowed to torture, tease, feed any animal. Animals are not to be disturbed by any uncanny acts.

Chapter 5
Wild animals, other than vermin, who were bred in captivity or hunted or kept, shall be the property of the government. Similarly, any animal articles, trophy or uncured trophy, meat, ivory (imported to India) or any article made from such ivory, vehicle, vessel, trap or tool that has been used to commit an offence and has been seized shall be the property of the state government.

No person is authorised to acquire or possess or destroy or transfer such government property without the permission of the Chief Wild Life Warden. The Chief Wild Life Warden may make inquiries and prepare inventories or issue a certificate of ownership to any person who, is in lawful possession of any wild animal or any animal article. The Chief Wild Life Warden may also suspend or cancel the certificate of ownership or license as he deems fit.

No person is allowed to commence or carry on the business as a dealer in trophy or uncured trophy, a taxidermist, a manufacturer or dealer in any animal article, a dealer in animal meat or a dealer in wild or captive animals, unless they are authorised to do so or have a license for the same.

A person is authorised to buy such animals or animal articles except vermin only from a licensed dealer. No person is allowed to transfer a wild animal or animal article across state lines by way of commercial purposes without a certificate of ownership. When a person transfers or transports a wild animal or an animal article for which he has a license, to another state, he must report to the Chief Wild Life Warden or any other authorised officer within thirty days of transport or transfer.

Chapter 6
The Director or any other officer endorsed by him, or the Chief Wild Life Warden or the authorised officer or any forest officer or any police officer not below the rank of a sub- inspector, are allowed to; ask a person to produce for inspection, seize any captive or wild animal or animal article, ask to produce any documents or licenses, issue a search warrant, enforce the attendance of witness, and receive and record evidence; if they have rational reasons for believing that a person has committed an offence against this act.

If a person fails to produce the necessary documents, fails to render assistance to the authorised person or is found guilty of an offence against this act, the person in charge permitted to arrest and detain him without warrant.

Only the Director of the Wildlife Preservation, or the Chief Wildlife Warden, or any other officer authorised by the central or state government, or a person who has made his intentions clear about filing a complaint 60 days prior, are authorised to file a complaint against the Wildlife Protection Act.

Any person who violates any provision of Chapter VA (prohibition of trading in or trafficking in trophies, animal articles, etc. derived from certain animals) is punished with a prison sentence of at least 7 years, but this can be extended to seven years and also with a fine that will not be less than five thousand rupees.

Any person who violates the provisions of Section 38J (to disturb, tease, molest, annoy, injure, or feed an animal or polluting the premises of a zoo) will be sentenced to imprisonment of up to six months or punished with a fine of up to two thousand rupees or both. For a second or subsequent offense, the sentence can be extended to one year or the fine to five thousand rupees.

Pursuant to Article 52, anyone who attempts to violate or violate any provision of this Act or any of the rules of this Act is deemed to be in breach of that provision or rule or order. If a person exercising powers under this act, unnecessarily confiscates the property of another person on the pretext of seizing it for the reasons set out in Article 50, he, if found guilty, will be dealt with by an imprisonment of six months or a fine of five hundred rupees or both.

Chapter 7
The Central or State Government, or any officer or employee of the Centre or the State Government shall not be liable for any actions that may or may not have caused damage, given that the actions taken by them were in good faith.

The Central Government has the power to delete, add, transfer entries from one schedule to another. The Central Government also has the power to make rules about licenses, salaries, appointment of members, keep the record of wild animals submitted by the licensee, etc.

  • There are Six Schedules in this act. These Schedules gives different standard of protection.
  • The Listed breeds and types of animals in Schedule I and part II of Schedule II get supreme protection. For example, Himalayan Brown Bear, Indian Elephant, Golden Geckos, Andaman Teal, Hornbills, Black Coral, Amara Brucei and many more. Offences under these are prescribed the highest penalties.
  • The Listed breeds and types of animals in Schedule III and Schedule IV are also secured, but the penalties are comparatively much lower. For example, Barking Deer, Falcons, Kingfisher, Tortoise etc.
  • Schedule V includes the animals which can be hunted. For example, Common Crow, Mice, Rats, Fruit Bats etc.
  • The plants, trees and crops mentioned in Schedule VI are banned from Cultivation and Planting. For example, Kuth, Red Vanda, Pitcher Plant etc.

The Continued Existence Of Wildlife And Wilderness Is Important To The Quality Of Life Of Humans. - Jim Fowler
Several mesmerising types and breeds of animal personify incomparable values, and at the same period, comprise a major asset base for sustainable development. Conservation of flora and fauna, accordingly, involves the protection of entire environment.

Just as in Ancient India, a moral and ethical duty to protect our wildlife was imposed on us through religion, such a duty should always be within us.

We have to keep these viewpoints in mind while going through the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. Since the fauna link in the web of lives, it is our greatest duty to preserve and protect the richness of flora and fauna as it can be made available to the upcoming people on this planet. So, the endangered breeds of flora and fauna should be secured. The Wildlife (protection) Act, with timely amendments, facilitates the protection of flora and fauna in India.

  • Shyam Divan and Armin Rosencranz Environmental Law and Policy in India, Oxford India Paperbacks (2ed.2001) India Paperbacks (2ed.2001
  • Sec. 8(cc) inserted by Act of 199 1, see. 8.
  • Section 35(1) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
  • Chapter IVA inserted by Act 44 of 1991, sec.26 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
  • Section 38 H (7) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
Award Winning Article Is Written By:
  1. Nirbhay Saxena &
  2. Sankarshan Roy Of Noida International University,Gautam Buddh Nagar
Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: JU116244024140-11-0621

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