Govt for more jail term to check wildlife crime
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Last Updated: Thursday, June 24, 2010, 18:51
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 existing legislation.

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 same.

The government has invited suggestions and comments from various stockholders on the draft Bill.


First Published: Thursday, June 24, 2010, 18:51

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