In a significant move, the Calcutta High Court on Friday (26th March) prohibited the hunting, selling, buying or exchanging of birds either as part of sale of domestic animals or otherwise.
The Bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee ordered thus in the suo moto matter related to the illegal smuggling and trading of endangered species of birds in the State.
The Division Bench had taken up the matter on the basis of a newspaper report that 'exposed the tip of an iceberg' regarding the 'cruel intrusion' into the life birds.
Significantly, the Court observed that all illegal activities in relation to birds and animals in whatever form and in connection with whatever melas and other festivals have to be completely stopped by the State, in the exercise of its police power, if needed.
Perusing the report filed by the Conservator of Forests, Wildlife and Chief Wildlife Warden, West Bengal, the Court appreciated the efforts made by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests.
However, the Court added that there are critical areas which are to be treated as fragile in terms of management of wildlife.
Further, to control wildlife crime especially illegal trade and smuggling, the Court directed the Chief Secretary of the Government of West Bengal and the Secretary of the Home Department, Government of West Bengal to jointly consider the suggestions made by Principal Chief Conservator of Forests.
Also, they have been directed to place the views of the Government from the angle of governance in an effort to effectuate the need to insulate and secure the wildlife and forest wealth.
The Court also issued the following directions: -
- Transport and smuggling of live birds through various courier services or packages or any other mode through inland transport or through airports in any manner shall be prevented.
- The State Police and Police Authorities, Customs Authorities and security personnel in charge of the airports as well as police officials and other officials in control of the inland transport system shall ensure this.
- The officers of the Motor Vehicles Department, the officers of the Police Department and officers of the other concerned departments are directed to give effect to the prohibition.
- Any violation of this prohibitory order will be immediately taken cognizance of by the jurisdictional officers as enjoined by the laws.
- The Airport Authorities, the Customs Authorities and the Authorities in control of the inter-state boundaries, exit points and entry points, are directed to ensure that transportation of live birds and other small and big animals which are part of wildlife, are intercepted and offenders are brought to the book.
Significantly, the restrictions imposed through the order have been directed to be complied throughout the State of West Bengal and the order shall by itself be treated as a prohibition with public notice.
The Court sternly remarked,
"Non-implementation of this order in its letter and spirit will be looked upon as dereliction of duty and violation of this order on the part of the officers in the administration whose obligation it is to enforce this order."
The prohibitory order has been directed to be published in the website of the State Government and the website of the High Court and such other websites or modes of publication as the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests may deem fit and appropriate
The matter has been posted for further hearing on 14th May 2021.