Experts flag loopholes in proposed amendment in Wildlife Protection Act,
saying it will allow commercial trade in live elephants (New Delhi)
Times of India
January 10, 2022
The Centre has proposed amendment in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 to
enforce provisions of an international convention to prevent trade in
endangered species, but the changes which it intends to introduce in the
existing law may by default do more harm than good as experts flagged how
it would allow commercial trade in live elephants and even reduce
protection of certain species such Asiatic Jackal, Striped Hyena and Bengal
Commenting on the Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Bill, which the
government introduced in the Lok Sabha during the winter session of
Parliament in December 2021, experts from the Legal Initiative for Forest
and Environment (LIFE) - environmental research and policy group - have
also pointed out that the the proposed changes would even make the State
Board for Wildlife defunct.
"We have sent our detailed comments on the Bill to Jairam Ramesh, chairman
of the parliamentary standing committee on environment and forests, who
would hopefully look into the points flagged by us before making final
recommendations on the proposed legislation," said Ritwick Dutta,
environmental lawyer who heads the LIFE.
The Bill, which was sent to the parliamentary standing committee for
further examination, seeks to amend the existing Act for better
implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It proposes to rationalize various
schedules of the law to fulfill India's international obligation for the
sake of protection of wild animals, birds and plants.
"On the positive part, it is intended to ensure that provisions with
respect to the Convention are part of the domestic law.
Besides, the Bill aims to also make the law simple by streamlining the
schedules. However, there are issues of concern which need to be
addressed," said Dutta.
The LIFE in its comments noted that the existing Act specifically prohibits
trade in wild animals including captive and wild elephants, but an
exception has been carved out in the Bill by excluding ‘live elephant’ from
the general prohibition contained in Section 43. "The implication of the
same is that commercial sale and purchase is no longer prohibited, under
the Act. The Amendment Bill therefore allows for commercial trade in
elephants," it said.
It underlined that the Bill also has provisions of "excessive delegation
and unrestricted power of the Central government to declare species as
vermin" unlike the existing law. Once a wild animal is declared as vermin,
it enjoys no legal protection and has the same status as a domestic animal.
It can be killed, traded and tamed.
Species such as Civets, Common Fox, Jackal, Martens, Andaman Wild Pig among
others cannot not be declared as vermin under the Act in view of the
statutory protection. "However, as Bill amends Section 62 by stating that
only species listed in Schedule I cannot be declared as vermin, while
species listed in Schedule II can be declared as vermin. Schedule II in the
Bill includes Striped Hyena, Andaman Wild Pig, Indian Fox, Bengal Fox,
Jungle Cat and Asiatic Jackal among other species which if declared a
vermin can pose serious threat to their existence in the wild," said the
Noting how the State Board for Wildlife would be rendered defunct by the
proposed amendment, it said, "The Bill intends to replicate the model of
the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) and its Standing Committee. It is
pertinent to point out that the NBWL, headed by the Prime Minister, has not
met since 2014.
"All its statutory functions are carried out by the Standing Committee,
headed by the environment minister, with no accountability to the Board. At
present, the State Boards by virtue of their composition are still able to
speak in the interest of wildlife. This will no longer be the case once the
Standing Committee of the State Board is constituted."