Saturday, February 20, 2010

Wildlife protection Act needs more fangs

Wildlife protection Act needs more fangs
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

The release of the kingpin of the gang of lion poachers, Sarkashlal, who was arrested in 2007 for the killing of eight lions in Bhavnagar and Junagadh, has come as a huge setback for the team of investigators who meticulously gathered evidence to trap the gang from Madhya Pradesh.

In all, 17 persons were held for the killings of the Asiatic lion, a protected species under schedule 1 of the Wildlife (protection) Act, 1972. The act protecting the animal, however, has come in for a lot of flak as it provides a punishment of only three years for the crime.

Forest officials said that for hunting of schedule I animals, including lions and tigers, the minimum imprisonment was three years which could extend upto seven years. However, offences related to trade and commerce in trophies, and animals articles derived from certain animals, attract imprisonment upto three years and a fine upto Rs 25,000.

S Para, the special public prosecutor in the Junagadh poaching case of 2007, said, "We did not have an eye witness in the case and had to make the case only on the basis of forensic and circumstantial evidences. The court was convinced that the offences were committed but the act allowed only a three-year imprisonment." Para said the government wanted to appeal against Sarkashlal's sentence but realised that the maximum punishment was already awarded.

Special prosecutor for the case in the high court, P Abichandani said the law had not acted as deterrent for poachers. The depleting number of tigers in the country and the increasing incident of poaching are an indication, he said, adding, "The issue has to be taken up by those framing the law."

Lawyer HM Dhruv said, "The threeyear imprisonment is certainly very modest. The accused also get bail easily no matter how strong evidence we have." He said these are cases related to rare and endangered species and hence the punishment should be increased and the case should be tried in the sessions court instead of magisterial courts.

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