8 Dec 2022 11:10 AM GMT
The Rajya Sabha today passed the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2022 which seeks to give effect to India's obligations under the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora ('CITES'), which requires countries to regulate trade of all listed specimens through permits. The Bill, which will amend the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 to increase...
The Rajya Sabha today passed the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2022 which seeks to give effect to India's obligations under the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora ('CITES'), which requires countries to regulate trade of all listed specimens through permits.
The Bill, which will amend the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 to increase the species protected under the law, was passed by the Lok Sabha on August 2, 2022.
Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav said that in India, illegal animal trade is regulated under Custom Act, Foreign Trade Development Regulation Act and Exim Policy and Wildlife Protection Act. However, the bill is brought since CITES requires independent framework for Wildlife protection.
He added that the Bill is also beneficial for local tribal communities as it inserts an explanation to provide for certain permitted activities such as grazing, movement of livestock, bona fide use of drinking and household water.
Significantly, the Bill seeks to amend Section 43 of the principal Act to permit transfer or transport of a captive elephant for a religious or any other purpose by a person having a valid certificate of ownership.
Many members raised concern on this provision, stating that the phrase "any other purpose" is vague and has potential of encouraging commercial trade of elephants, their captivity and brutality. AITC MP Sushmita Dev said that the provision is in direct contravention of the principal Act, which prohibits transport of wildlife for consideration. YSRCP MP Ayodhya Alla suggested that to clarify the position, an additional mechanism may be introduced for acquiring animals for religious institutions.
Congress MP Vivek K. Tankha said, "There are 2,675 captive elephants in India and only 1,251 have ownership certificates. There is a huge elephant congregation whose ownership certificate is not decided. If you leave this provision so weak and indeterminate, it will cause problems."
However, Environment Minister assured the House that the Government will take all decisions in the interest of widlife.
Tankha also referred to proposed Section 49M which provides for possession, transfer and breeding of living scheduled animal species. It requires persons in possession of Schedule 4 animals to make a self-declaration to the competent authority. Tankha said that the provision should allow public participation and give rights to third party to file complaints in case they come across any contravention of the Act.
Members also said that the government missed the opportunity to address the issues relating to Human-Wildlife conflict, Eco-sensitive zone rule, etc. They pointed that the species listed in all the 3 schedules of the Bill is incomplete as per the report submitted by the Parliamentary Standing Committee and a need was felt for greater inclusion of scientists, botanists, biologists in process of listing all existing species of wildlife.
Protection of wild animals and birds is a subject under Concurrent List of the Constitution. RJD MP Manoj Kumar Jha said that the proposed amendment bill renders the State Boards for Wildlife chaired by Chief Ministers defunct and provides for establishing Standing Committee of Board for Wildlife to be headed by the Forest Minister with maximum 10 nominated members. This, he said, reduces state's involvement and injures India's Federal structure. AITC MP Sushmita Dev suggested that the Management and Scientific Authorities contemplated under the Bill must take into account the strong principles of Federalism and ensure constructive engagement of State governments.
Insert a new Schedule for specimens listed in the Appendices under CITES.
Amendment to Section 6 to constitute Standing Committee to exercise such powers and duties as may be delegated to it by the State Board for Wildlife.
Amendment to Section 43 to permit elephants, a Schedule I animal, to be used for 'religious or any other purpose'.
Insert Section 49E to empower Central government to designate a Management Authority to grant export or import permits for trade of specimens. The Authority may use an identification mark for a specimen and any modification or removal of such identification mark is prohibited. Insert Section 49F to empower Central government to designate a Scientific Authority to advice on aspects related to impact on the survival of the specimens being traded. These provisions are set to ensure "sustainable" exploitation of flora and fauna.
The Bill seeks to regulate the control of sanctuaries. It provides that the Chief Wildlife Warden shall act in accordance with the management plans for the sanctuary, to be prepared as per Central guidelines. It also empowers both Central and State governments to declare areas adjacent to national parks and sanctuaries as a conservation reserve, for protecting flora and fauna, and their habitat.
The Bill also empowers Central government to regulate and stop the import, trade or possession of invasive plant or animal alien species.
It further requires every person possessing live specimens of scheduled animals to obtain a registration certificate from the Management Authority. It provides that people may "voluntarily surrender" any captive animals to the Chief Wildlife Warden, and such surrendered animals will become property of the state government.
The Bill also enhances the penalties prescribed for violation of provisions of the Act. For 'General violations', maximum fine is increased from Rs 25,000 to Rs. 1 lakh. In case of Specially protected animals, the minimum fine of Rs. 10,000 has been enhanced to Rs. 25,000.
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