PROTECTION OF WILDLIFE BY THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION
Updated: Mar 20
Author: Aditya Agrawal, IV Year of BBA.,LL.B(Hons), from Amity Law School, Amity University Madhya Pradesh
Wildlife refers to the undomesticated species of animals which live in their natural environment without the interference of human. Wildlife protection refers to the conversation of the wild species and their habitat. Protection of wildlife is required because it is a source of inspiration, it maintains a sense of wonder and also helps to maintain the balance of nature.
Endangered species refers to the species which are at the risk of extinction. Such a risk of extinction takes birth from sudden decrease in the normal number or population of such species. Loss of habitat and loss of genetic variation are the two main reasons for the extinction of species which make the rest of them endangered.
Wildlife as defined under Section 2(37) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 refers to “any animal, bees, butterflies, crustacean, fish and moths; and aquatic or land vegetation which forms part of any habitat”
As per the Merriam-Webster, wildlife means “living things and especially mammals, birds, and fishes that are neither human nor domesticated”.
The Cambridge Dictionary defined Wildlife as “animal and plants that grow independently of people, usually in natural conditions”.
Wildlife protection refers to not only the protection of animal species and their habitat, but that of plants as well. Protection of wild species is required in order to maintain the ecological balance and to sustain the diversity in living creatures.
WILDLIFE PROTECTION ACT, 1972
Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which came into force on 9th September, 1972 is, “An Act to provide for the protection of wild animals, birds and plants and for matters connected therewith or ancillary or incidental thereto”. The Act provides for the appointment of a wildlife advisory board, wildlife warden, and also their powers and duties. The Act empowers the Central and state governments to declare any area to be a wildlife sanctuary, closed area or a national park. The Act regulates hunting of wild animals and also protects certain plants, national parks, sanctuaries and closed areas. It also restricts trade and commerce in wild animals or the articles of animals. Hunting is prohibited without permission, and that too when an animal becomes dangerous.
PROTECTED AREAS UNDER THE ACT
Five kind of protected areas, i.e., Sanctuaries, National Parks, Tiger reserves, conservation reserves and community reserves, are notified under the Act.
PROTECTION OF WILDLIFE BY THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION
Protection of wildlife was not part of the Indian Constitution from the very beginning and no provisions were there for that purpose in any Article to the Constitution when it came into force, as at that particular point of time the importance of environmental protection had not been foreseen by the Constitution makers.
42ND AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA
42nd Amendment to the Constitution in the year 1976 got the provisions relating to the protection of wildlife and forests incorporated in the Constitution. With effect to that amendment, it got the subject of protection of forest and wild animals in the Concurrent List, under the Seventh Schedule by virtue of Article 256 of the Constitution of India. Protection of the natural environment, including the wildlife, is also part of fundamental duties, prescribed under Article 51A of the Constitution. The Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined under part IV of the Constitution of India make it a duty of the State under Article 48-A of the constitution to make efforts to improve the environment and to safeguard the forest and wildlife.
G.R. Simon vs. Union of India, AIR 1997 Delhi 301
The petitioner was the manufacturer of certain articles like coats, caps, blankets, shoes, bags, etc. An amendment in 1991 asked for prohibition of trade in animal articles. The petitioner contended that it is not constitutional as it put restrictions on the right to free trade under Article 19(1) (g) of the Constitution.
It was held that all the animals are important for the purpose of maintaining ecological balance irrespective of the fact that the animal is wild and serves no useful purpose. If such an approach would be followed, then only ecological diversity is possible. Moreover, there is no violation of the fundamental right to trade or carry on business as it is a reasonable restriction on trade by virtue of Article 19(6). It is the duty of every citizen to protect and improve the wildlife of the country implicit under article 51-A (g) of the Constitution.
Pradeep Krishen vs. Union of India.
Order of the M.P. government which gave permission to the villagers near sanctuaries and national parks to collect tendu leaves through contractors was challenged on the ground that various trees in these areas have been destroyed due to entry of villagers.
The Supreme Court took cognizance of it and directed the M.P. Government to take urgent steps and prohibit villagers and tribal people from entering the parks and sanctuaries.
Tarun Bharat Sangh, Alwar vs. Union of India, 1993 SCR (3) 21
In this case, a total of 215 licenses were granted for mining in the area declared to be Tiger Reserve in the Alwar district of Rajasthan. This act was challenged by the petitioner in front of the Supreme Court on the ground of its being against environmental protection norms.
The Supreme Court acted on it and cancelled all the licenses as they were given in an area declared to be a tiger reserve and, therefore, mining could have a direct impact on the tiger reserve.
Endangered species refers to those which are close to reaching the point of extinction. Once a particular species becomes extinct, there is an end to the whole group of that particular living organism, and they no more exist, eventually taking the existence of such species to an end forever. As already discussed above, such a risk of extinction takes birth from sudden decrease in the normal number or population of such species.
Two main reasons for extinction of species
Loss of habitat; and
Loss of genetic variation;
are the two main reasons for the extinction of species which make the rest of them endangered.
Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 enumerates certain endangered and wild species which are at some risk of extinction, and therefore, it puts prohibition on hunting of such endangered species. Various plant species like Blue Vanda, Pitcher Plant, Beddome cycad, Ladies Slipper Orchid, etc are mentioned as endangered species under the Act. When we talk about animal species, it includes species like Sangai deer, Dugong, Tiger, great Indian bustard, etc.
ROLE OF INDIAN JUDICIARY IN PROTECTION OF ENDANGERED SPECIES
It is very much clear from the following cases that the Indian Judiciary is abundantly concerned towards the protection of Endangered Species and had always acted diligently as and wh byen required.
Aali-Bedini-Bagzi Bugyal Sanrakshan Samiti vs. State of Uttarakhand, 2018 SCC OnLine Utt 760
This petition was concerned with preserving and conserving Bugyal (Alpine meadows) which is situated below the area of Roopkund in District Chamoli also known as ‘Nature’s own gardens’. The area had a very great environmental importance as it was primarily used for grazing animals, along with that, it also comprised of various life-saving medicinal plants. Various prayers were made, including limitation on grazing activities to non-commercial purposes only.
The court concluded that in lieu of Article 48-A of the Constitution of India, it was the duty of the State to protect and improve the environment, forests and wildlife of the country which is also balanced with a similar duty attached on the part of the citizens of the country under Article51-A(g) of the Constitution.
T.N. Godavarman Thirmulpad vs. Union of India, (1997) 2 SCC 267
In this case, a writ petition was filed by the learned amicus curiae seeking direction to the Union of India and the State of Chattisgarh to prepare a rescue plan to protect and save the Asiatic wild buffalo which are an endangered species and are at risk of extinction.
The State government took the plea of shortage of funds to execute the various programs for the protection of these Asiatic wild buffalos, which was held to be not tenable. Directions were given to the State Government to give due recognition to the centrally sponsored scheme which aims at saving wild buffalo.
Centre for Environmental Law, World Wide Fund India vs. Union of India, (2013) 8 SCC 234
National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016) identified various species, i.e., Great Indian bustard, Bengal florican, Manipur Brow Antlered deer, Dugong, wild buffalo and Asiatic lion as endangered species and on the basis of that report the Court gave directions to the Government of India and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change to take steps in order to preserve the concerned species and also to initiate recovery programs.
This is how wildlife and endangered species are an important part of the ecosystem and their protection helps in maintaining the ecological balance. Realizing the fact that wildlife protection is required for keeping it as a source of inspiration for the generations to come, to maintain a sense of wonder and to maintain the balance of nature. All of it proved to be possible only because of the major developments in the Environmental Laws during the period of the 1970s-1980s, and for that purpose, we saw that the concern and awareness was at a level that the Judiciary and the Apex Court made an abundant contribution to protect and safeguard the endangered species from getting extinct.