The Supreme Court has given directions on under-grounding overhead electric lines in Rajasthan and Gujarat to protect the Great Indian Bustard, a critically endangered bird. The estimated number of existing Great Indian Bustards is only around 250, and the bird’s population continues to decrease.
Who is responsible for protecting wild animals?
Article 48A of the Constitution of India, 1950 says that the Government should try to protect and improve the environment, and safeguard the forests and wildlife of India.
The Seventh Schedule of the Constitution divides responsibilities between the Central and State governments with respect to various subjects. Forests, and the protection of wild animals and birds falls under the Concurrent List, which means that both Central and State governments have the power to govern these areas.
How does Indian law protect wild animals?
The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 protects the rights of wild animals, birds and plants in order to ensure the ecological and environmental security of the country. The Act protects animals including amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles.
Is hunting prohibited?
Yes, the law prohibits the hunting of any wild animal found in nature. Wild animals are different from captive animals which are captured and kept in environments under human control. A list of wild animals and captive animals is given in the Act.
- Killing or poisoning any wild animal or captive animal (or any attempt to do so)
- Capturing, trapping, or baiting any wild or captive animal (or any attempt to do so)
- Injuring or destroying or taking any part of the body of an animal
When is hunting permitted?
If a wild animal becomes dangerous to human life or property, the authorised forest officer (usually the Chief Wild Life Warden) might permit a person to hunt that animal. Further, they might allow hunting if the wild animal becomes disabled or seriously ill beyond any chance of recovery. The forest officer will allow hunting only if they are convinced that the wild animal cannot be captured or moved to a different location.
It is not a punishable offence if a person kills or injures a wild animal to protect themselves or to protect any other person. Any wild animal killed or injured in defence of any person is government property.
What is the punishment for hunting?
If someone breaks the law and hunts any wild animal, they can be punished with imprisonment for up to three years and/or a fine of up to Rupees twenty-five thousand.
The punishment can be more severe depending on the animal they have hunted and other circumstances. For example, the punishment for hunting the Great Indian Bustard is imprisonment for three to seven years, and a fine of at least Rupees ten thousand.
Protecting the habitat of wild animals
Without official permission, no person can destroy, damage or divert the habitat of any wild animal or affect the flow of water into or outside the national park/sanctuary. To do any of these activities, the person should first get a permit from the Chief Wildlife Warden. The Warden will grant the permit only if the State government is convinced that the removal of wildlife or the change in water flow is necessary for the improvement and better management of wildlife.
The punishment for altering a wild animal’s habitat is imprisonment for up to three years and/or a fine of up to Rupees twenty-five thousand.