– Reshmi Bhattacharjee
Animal law envelops a wide scope starting from the philosophical explorations of the rights of the animals till the penalties of the offenders. Animal law is included in all the sector comprising all types of law be it a tort, criminal or constitutional. Earlier humans used to hunt animals and feed on them. With the evolution of time and generation, people learnt farming and agriculture for sustenance and domesticated animals for their own benefits. Animals played a vital role in the ecosystem but with growing development, the benefits of animals have been exploited. Everything is connected. If one is exploited its effect will directly or indirectly fall on the habitation. When we protect animals and plants, we also protect the ecosystems that underlie our economies and well-being. Animals respond to rhythmical changes as they have adapted to. A sudden change in the balance causes unknown distress in their living or growth procedure. Animals form a pattern of how they help the ecosystem to cope up. They create a perfect balance of consumers and producers. They tend to create a chain for the habitation. If one species is rendered extinct due to some imbalance, it can have significant cascading effects throughout the rest of the chain. They are all interdependent on each other for survival. Think about the circulation of money in an economy. If one link is broken the whole economy can crash. The same can be said for animals in an ecosystem. They are all important to ensure ecological balance.
CRIMES AGAINST ANIMALS
Wildlife crime is not A new issue in India and has been in existence for quite a long time. It happens in all levels in our country, for instance, from a local village sustenance to the billion in the global market. Plants and animals are incredibly important for healthy livelihood. The balance between our ecosystem is the vital ingredient of substances. The Herculean task to grant official protection to the wildlife of our country came ahead a year prior to the inception of Project Tiger. It was then that the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau came to force.
WILDLIFE CRIME CONTROL BUREAU
WCCB is a statutory multi-disciplinary body under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to combat Organized wildlife crime in the country. It was established in June 2007 by amending the Wildlife (Protection) Act (WLPA), 1972, a special Act to protect the wildlife and fauna in the country. Its headquarter is in New Delhi and the other five regional offices are in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and Jabalpur. It also has 3 sub-regional offices at Guwahati, Cochin and Amritsar and 5 Border Units at Gorakhpur, Motihari, Nathula, Moreh and Ramanathpuram. The Bureau was constituted by amendment to the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. The very purpose of this act is not only to protect birds, wild animals but also to provide environmental security of their habitats in India. The wildlife protection act of 1972 is one of the comprehensively drawn up act stressing on the protection and prevention of wildlife crimes.
The basic functions of the bureau are stated under section 38(Z) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The functions stated are as follows:
• Assemble and gather all the information and knowledge regarding the wildlife crimes activities and further pass on the information to State and other enforcement agencies such that they can apprehend the criminals
• Engineer all the steps pursued by the State Government and other authorities with respect to the provisions of the Act. It can be done either directly or through the border and regional units of the bureau.
• Exertion of obligations under various international conventions and protocols that are already in force or may be upheld in the near future.
• In order to facilitate coordination and universal action for wildlife crime control, it derives help from the concerned Organization.
•Ensure success and prosperity by developing proper infrastructure and capacity building for scientific and professional investigation of wildlife crimes.
• Discuss the problems faced by the wildlife crime control with the Government and ensure proper and preventive steps are taken.
Powers exercised by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau are delegated to it under
• Sub-section (1) of section 5.
• Sub-sections (1) and (8) of section 50 and section 55.
India has a strong law for the protection of animals. Trade of species of animals, plants and their derivative has been prohibited under the Wildlife Protection Act , 1972. India is also a member of the CITES since 1976. But the issue arise here as the problem with India is not with the law but the poorly advertised and below par methods of implementation and enforcement. The basic issues faced during the crisis of growing illegal crimes are as follows:
• Location of the crimes : Crimes like this generally take place in the dense and remote part of the country where there is absolutely no habitation. This is a benefit for the accused as the crucial evidences like tyre marks. trace evidence, foot prints etc have already been eroded.
• Lack of eyewitnesses : there is absolutely no chance of eyewitness in such crimes. The criminals here are hideous and always intercept ways for not leaving any evidence. Even if there are traces of blood, meat, hair etc they tend to lose credibility as they fail to be processed in the prescribed manner.
• Hurdles of the court : once the matter reaches the courts, it is considered to be a different scenario. Hardly any importance is given to such cases and sometimes takes years to even start the hearing. All wildlife related cases are subjected to delays and take decades for the lower courts to give a verdicts. As there always remains lack of evidence, the benefit directly jumps to the accused from the prosecutor.
Reasons for the existence of such problems:
• Inadequate legislation.
• Lack of proper tools and equipments to avoids the crimes.
• Very defined training to the officials, which are not sufficient to dodge the ghastly crimes.
• Lack of seriousness by the judiciary
• Poor administration
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960
The Prevention Of Cruelty Act, 1960 was the first act regarding the protection of animals and to deal with the cruelty against them. It was passed in order to severely punish the people who indulge in the cruel activities done against animals and start an animal welfare board. The act strictly prohibits any cruelty done towards animal or any e action which causes suffering to them. It is well verse in the act the different types of cruelties that has been observed against animals, and also penalties to punish the offenders. A proper guideline has been mentioned in this act relating to experimentation for scientific purposes on the animals. Animal welfare board is constituted by the Inspector General of Forests Of The Government of India with other important board members. Section 8 of the act consists of the grants for donations, gifts, subscription etc made to the board by any organisation or NGO or an individual.
Section 11 of the Act
Any type of physical pain be it beating, torturing, overloads or any other physical injury which causes suffering to the animal can be termed as cruelty. Owner cannot employee animals in work or labour which causes distress to the physical body of the said animal or is mentally unfit for the job. Injecting of drugs or or any other such substance to domestic or captive animals is a serious offence. Many animals are kept in captives which is totally barbaric. Nevertheless, when an animal is kept in captive the owner should see that sufficient space is around the animal providing the animal ample amount of free space to move around. The owner of any captive animal should not fail to supply the animal with sufficient food, water and shelter. Abandoning of animal in deserted places causing it to suffer by what-so-ever reason is also so a cruelty as the owner owes a duty of care to the animal.
According to section 29, if the owner is found guilty under this act then he or she shall lose custody for ownership of the animal (permanently or for a given time).
The Wildlife (protection) Act, 1972:
Wildlife crime is not a new issue in India, and has been in existence for quite a long time. Plants and animals are incredibly important for a healthy livelihood. The balance between our ecosystems is the vital ingredients of sustenance. Trade of species of wild animals, plants and their derivative has been prohibited under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. This act provides for proper administration and adequate legislation. This act allows officials to assemble and gather all information and knowledge regarding the wildlife crime activity and further pass on the information to state and other enforcement agencies such that they can apprehend the criminals and ensure success and prosperity by developing proper infrastructure and capacity building for the scientific and professional investigation of the wild life crime.
• R. Simon V. Union of India (AIR 1997 Del 301)
FACTS – The amendment of 1991 prohibited trade in animal articles. The petitioner was a manufacturer of good from the above said articles. Ir was argued that the said Act indirectly takes aways the fundamental right to carry on trade or business under Article 19(1)(g). It was further added that certain wild animals are harmful and serve no purpose
HELD – The Delhi High Court rejected the contentions and held that all animals are important in maintaining the ecological balance of the country. It is the duty of every citizen to protect and improve the wildlife of our country.
• Indian Handicrafts Emporium V. Union of India CASE NO.: Appeal (civil) 7533 of 1997
FACTS – The petitioner challenged the constitutional validity of 1991 Amendment which prohibits all trade in imported ivory.
HELD – The constitutional validity of the 1991 Amendment was upheld by the Supreme Court and was observed that a trade which is alarming to the ecology maybe regulated or totally restricted. A total prohibition is reasonable to balance the social interest and the Fundamental Rights.
• Tarun Bharat Sangh, Alwar V. Union of India (1993) INSC 209
FACTS – The petitioner challenged the grant of 215 mining license in an area declared as Tiger Reserve in the Alwar District of Rajasthan,
HELD – The Supreme Court rejected and cancelled all the licenses as they were already provided for the Tiger Reserve.
The legislature and the Judiciary, both are concerned about the wildlife of the country. It would be totally unfair even the citizens start being biased and show no involvement in it. The conviction of Salman Khan for killing a black buck has sent a clear message of commitment and pledge by the Jodhpur Court and has proven that no one is above the law.
Important Wildlife Protection Projects initiated by the Government:
Project Tiger : Project Tiger was initiated way back in 1972 and is considered to be one of the most successful wildlife conservation ventures. The ministry of Environment Forest and Climate pushed forward towards the Organization of the this project. This project has seen compelling success in the recovery of habitats and also a hike in the population of tigers. From a limited number of 268 in 9 reserves in 1972 to above 1000 in 28 reserves in 2006 to 2000+ tigers in 2016.
Project Elephant : This project aims at conserving elephants and their habitat and of migratory routes by developing scientific and planned management measures. Under this project issues like mitigation of human-elephant conflict are also taken care of and its main objective was to provide protection to the elephants from smugglers, preventing illegal ivory trade and unnatural deaths. It was started in the year 1992.
Crocodile conservation project : This project aimed at protecting the remaining population of crocodiles in their natural habitat by making sanctuaries. In order to strengthen their population, the process of “grow and release”, i.e captive breeding was practiced. This program was first implemented in Odisha in 1975.
Indian Rhino Vision 2020: This project was launched in 2005 aiming toward a wide community of at least 3000 one horned rhino by the end of 2020. This program is supported by the WWF, the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) and numerous local NGOs. The first sight for translocation of the rhinos is the Manas National Park.
Sea Turtle project : With the objective of conservation of Olive Ridley turtles and other endangered marine turtles, MoEF initiated the Sea Turtle Conservation Project in collaboration of UNDP in 1999 with Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun as the Implementing Agency. It has been implemented in ten of the coastal states of India and particularly to Odisha.
Animals are friends, they too have the right to live without pain. The merciless torture and ill treatment of the animals should be put to an end. One should be focused about how together we can balance the ecosystem. Not only the steps of the Government, but several NGOs should also step forward and help in the betterment of the animals. The wildlife trafficking is increasing gradually and is a very big threat to all species. It is considered to be the 4th largest illegal racket in the world. The is a huge demand for horns, ivory, skins, precious timber which are sold for billions but is driving bizarre wildlife count reduction. The illegal trading of wildlife is estimated to be over a worth of USD 20 billion per year. More than 5500 species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles sold worldwide, exceeding a volume of 50% than earlier estimate. There is no single silver bullet that can alone stop wildlife crime. But can be reduced by adopting a broad approach involving tools and partners and targeting the trafficking chain.