All plants, animals, and insects, which can be seen in the forest, are considered wildlife. India is full of wildlife. In 1997, India consists of 65,000 species of animals including aquatic animals, birds, and mammals, and 13,000 types of flowering plants. India also attempted to safeguard their wildlife by passing the Indian Forest Act, 1927, which bans hunting in reserve and protected areas. Even today, India is very aware of its wildlife, and also Article 51-A (g) of the Indian constitution states that it is a fundamental duty of an Indian citizen to protect and improve the condition of wildlife in the nation.
The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
For a long time wildlife is considered an integral part of society. India’s wildlife is under threat due to the greed and trade practices of some people and for this, the Government has enacted The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The main objective of this act was to protect endangered species which are listed in the schedule of the Act. Also, to come up with legal support for the conservative areas of the nation which were classified as national parks, sanctuaries, and closed areas.
Schedules I, II, III, IV of the Act prohibit any citizen from hunting endangered species. Under this act, any area which has reasonable ecology, flora, fauna, or zoological importance can be declared as a national park or sanctuary by the state. The entire civilian shall be restricted and exploitation of wildlife is prohibited in both the national parks and sanctuaries. According to the nature of offenses, there are various punishments like Cognizable, Non-Cognizable, Bailable, Non-Bailable, Compoundable, Non-Compoundable offenses.
The Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 1986
The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 was not sufficient as the Act of 1972 permitted trade practices of wild animals, animal articles, and trophies within the territory of India. Many people illegally exported animal skins and trophies for their gain. Therefore, it became mandatory to bring the Amendment, hence the 1986 amendment was brought. The amendment of 1986 states that no person should undertake any trade practice of wild animals listed under Schedules I and II of the Act. Thereafter, the licenses for internal trade were revoked. Sometime later, a total ban was imposed on the Indian ivory trade.
The Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 1991
An amendment was again brought in 1991 on the basic advice of the Minister of Environment and Forests and Wildlife Board of India as It was observed that there was a steady decline in the number of wildlife animals due to poaching and illegal trade of wildlife articles. The Amendment Act of 1991 states that no person can hunt any wild animal except the vermin. But in certain circumstances, hunting was allowed for the protection of life, education, research, captive breeding, and scientific management.
National parks and sanctuaries can be extended to territorial water bodies without affecting the interest of fishermen. It was also stated that no area shall be declared as a national park or sanctuaries without clearing up the rights of local people. The importance of the zoo was also recognized in the Amendment Act, 1991 for the conservation of wildlife. The Central Zoo Authority was established by the Central Government under the Amendment Act for the monitoring and management of zoos.
Besides, four more amendments were brought by the Government of India, including the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 1993, the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002, the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 2006, and the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 2013 which made the law more stringent.
The Indian Forest Act, 1927
The Government of India adopted this Act, based on the previous Acts implemented by the British government in 1878. The main purpose of this Act was to consolidate and reserve forest areas, including wildlife, as well as to maintain and control forest produces namely timber, etc. The procedures for declaring reserved, protected, or village forests were also established by this Act. Reserved forests are the well-protected of these three types of forests. Also, Cattle grazing, tree felling, fishing, quarrying, forest product use, and hunting are all prohibited in these forests and are therefore punishable by imprisonment or a fine under the Act.
The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
The Environment (Protection) Act was passed in 1986 to protect and improve the environmental condition in the country. It also gives the Central Government the authority to avoid all forms of environmental pollution and to address environmental problems that arise in the country by establishing appropriate authorities with necessary powers. The act was amended in 1991.
The Biological Diversity Act, 2002
The Act was promulgated by the Central Government of India to conserve biological diversity in India, ensure sustainable use of its components, and developing structures for fair sharing of the advantages derived from the use of biological resources and information.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
CITES is an international agreement that was formed to protect endangered plants and animals from exploitation and was adopted in Washington in 1973. The Convention protects endangered species by restricting their international trade. The convention has 183 signatories as of October 2016, including 182 states and the European Union. The CITES Convention contains provisions and rules for non-Party trade.
These are some important Cases: –
R. Simon vs. Union of India
The petitioner, in this case, was the manufacturer of hats, gloves, coats, blankets and bags, shoes, and materials which were made from the skin of snakes. The petitioner challenges the Amendment Act of 1991 which prohibits the trade of animal articles. He said that the Amendment Act, 1991 violates the fundamental right to carry out any trade under Article 19(1) (g) of the Indian constitution. Additionally, some animals are quite dangerous and are of no use. On which the Delhi High Court stated that every citizen has to protect and sustain the wildlife of the country and each animal plays an important role in maintaining the ecological balance. The Court held that the fundamental right could be restricted to the public interest.
Babran Kumawat vs. Union of India
The petitioner, in this case, is the creator of giant ivory, which is already missing from Alaska and Siberia due to climatic conditions. In response to this question, ivory can be considered as imported ivory under the Amendment Act 1991. The Supreme Court held that the ivory trade is either prohibited from mammoths or elephants. Thus, the huge ivory cannot be traded by the petitioner.
Pradeep Krishen vs. Union of India
The Madhya Pradesh (MP) government permitted the villagers, who live near the national parks and sanctuaries to collect Tandu leaves through a contractor. The petitioner filed a case against the order of the MP government. There are 11 national parks and sanctuaries and 12.4% of the total forest of the state belongs to the national park ad sanctuaries. The petitioner stated that there was a huge increase in deforestation as the villagers entered the forest. The Supreme Court of India directed the Madhya Pradesh government to immediately ban the entry of villagers into national parks and sanctuaries.
Although the country’s laws relating to the protection of wildlife and the environment have been implemented and enforced to include strict legal protections for the cause of wildlife protection and conservation, the ground reality is very different. The aim of protecting wildlife can only be accomplished if all levels of government, villagers and local citizens who live in and around protected areas, non-profit and non-governmental groups, law enforcement officers, and the general public work together sincerely to achieve it. To protect wildlife, the Central government and State governments must cooperate and enforce all effective applicable laws and innovative and effective conservation strategies.