New Delhi: Enhanced penalty to the tune
of Rs five lakh along with a minimum jail term of five years,
and empowering enforcement officials are some of the key
features of a proposed Bill by the Centre to check rampant
wildlife crime in the country.
With the present Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972
failing to curb wildlife smuggling, the proposed amendments in
the draft bill prepared by the Environment Ministry also seek
to increase the efficiency of the prosecution process to
ensure higher conviction rate.
It also bans trade in peacock tail feathers and
articles made from them, a key demand of conservationists for
preventing poaching of the national bird.
"The aim is to give the law more teeth as well meet the
changing requirements with criminals becoming more organised
and posing constant challenge to the enforcement agencies," a
senior official from the ministry said.
As per draft Bill, The Wild Life (Protection)
Amendment Bill, 2010, those found guilty of offences related
to animals listed in Schedule I or part II of Schedule II will
be sentenced to a jail term between five to seven years with a
fine of Rs five lakh against present fine of Rs 10,000.
The prison term and fine will increase simultaneously
in case of a second or subsequent offence.
To ensure higher conviction rate, the proposed
legislation empowers the judge or magistrate to allow
detention of the accused, in custody of the forest department,
for a period of upto seven days to facilitate investigation
into the case.
It is aimed at ensuring greater harmony with the
provisions of Convention on the International Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which
regulate the international trade in endangered species of
animals and plants.
With organised poachers conveniently using leg hold-traps
to kill the endangered animals like tiger and leopard, the
proposed bill bans the sale, manufacturing and use of the
gadgets and regulates their possession as well.
"These specific traps are dangerous devices that can
cause grave damage to even human beings, and are not regulated
by any law at present. The use of these traps, in general, is
already a violation of the Prevention of Cruelty (Capture of
Animals) Rules, 1979," says a release by the ministry.
Aimed to be as progressive as it could be, the draft
Wildlife Bill has several new features when compared to the
For instance, new Section 49M does not allow any
person to possess, artificially cultivate, breed in captivity
or trade in an exotic species or scheduled specimen.
Yet another new Section 49F in the Bill states that
"an officer not below the rank of Additional Director General
of Forests will be heading the Management Authority which
would be responsible for issuance of permits for regulating
the import, export and re-export of any scheduled specimen."
The draft also attempts to address the issue of
wildlife research as well to promote independent scientific
research and imposes obligations upon the Central Government
to frame comprehensive rules and procedures governing the
The government has invited suggestions and comments
from various stockholders on the draft Bill.