Sikkim Wildlife Protection (amendment) Act 2018 withdrawn, Minister clarifies
The Forest Minister of Sikkim, Karma Loday Bhutia informed the State Legislative Assembly on January 28 that the Department of Wildlife and Forest has withdrawn the Wildlife (Protection) Act (Amendment) Bill of 2018. The Bill was amended by Tshering Wangdi, Former minister in the year 2018 and as per the bill it ”gave a freehand to villagers to protect their agricultural crops, livestock, and property from wild animals”.
The amended legislation empowered the farmers to drive away ‘any wild animal’ which entered any part of the land or building of the farmer or the person in question ‘with the objective of destroying agriculture/horticulture produce or of killing the domestic cattle’. The 2018 bill provided immunity to people from law while acting against wild animals entering their property.
Karma Loday, Minister for Department of Forest and Wildlife clarifying the penal possession said “The people driving away the wild animals won’t be liable for any injuries or even death dealt to the wild animal, there won’t be any penal procession, or liability and the case would be registered as an accident”.
The 2018 bill also ensured that public could chase away wild animals by use of sticks, weapons (other than firearms) or pelting of stones. “if as a consequence of such chasing, the concerned wild animal is injured or killed, such incident of injury or death should be treated as an accident and no penal liability will accrue and the body or carcass of the wild animal shall be the property of the government. However, the public cannot enter into the forest land while chasing the wild animal away from their land”, the bill further asserted.
In addition, forest minister informed the assembly that the cabinet had already given the green light approving the withdrawal and that his information was placed in the assembly as a formal withdrawal of the 2018 amendment bill.
“Ministry of Home Affair says the purposed amendment strays away and creates conflict with the existing centre laws and undermines the provision contained in section 11 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, andas per section 11, chapter II & III, the Chief Wildlife Warden of the State has full power to take such appropriate action considering the ground reality,” said Bhutia.
Speaking to Sikkim Chronicle Former Forest Minister, Tshering Wangdi Lepcha, who introduced the Wildlife (Protection) Act (Amendment) Bill in 2018, shared his concerns that withdrawing the 2018 amendment bill would invite atrocities against wildlife to increase. In which he said “We introduced the amendment bill in 2018 to the 1972 Act after listening to grievances of the residents and also looking at the welfare of the wildlife,”
“We had set up compensations for residents and farmers whose properties, crops, health, etc, would have been harmed because of the wild animals, and we had particularly said that the residents were not allowed to go inside the forest premises. There are cases, and there have been cases in our tenure as well where the wildlife is seriously injured or even killed, and this happens not only in Sikkim but all over India.” he added
“Now there is a real possibility of misusing this Act because there is no guarantee that the hunted animal would be hunted in their property or they would be hunted in the forest.”
Lepcha shared his concern that this withdrawal along with the fact that humans will face more intrusions from wildlife with the ever-growing interference from humans to the wildlife habitat and the case of depletion of their food, that more wildlife will intrude on the properties. This will be a loss for the residents but this withdrawal will be a bigger trigger for the endangerment of wildlife.
The original Act of 1972, namely Section 11, sub-sections 1,2, and 3, illustrated below, does see a contradiction and redundancy created by the 2018 amendment bill.
Hunting of wild animals to be permitted in certain cases —
(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force and subject to the provisions of Chapter IV.
(a) the Chief Wild Life Warden may, if he is satisfied that any wild animal specified in Schedule I has become dangerous to human life or is so disabled or diseased as to be beyond recovery, by Order in writing and stating the reasons therefore, permit any person to hunt such animal or cause such animal to be hunted;
1 [Provided that no wild animal shall be ordered to be killed unless the Chief Wild Life Warden is satisfied that such animal cannot be captured, tranquilised or translocated:
Provided further that no such captured animal shall be kept in captivity unless the Chief Wild Life Warden is satisfied that such animal cannot be rehabilitated in the wild and the reasons for the same are recorded in writing.
Explanation — For the purposes of clause (a), the process of capture or translocation, as the case may be, of such animal shall be made in such manner as to cause minimum trauma to the said animal]
(b) the Chief Wild Life Warden or the authorised officer may, if he is satisfied that any wild animal specified in Schedule II, Schedule III, or Schedule IV, has become dangerous to human life or to property (including standing crops on any land) or is so disabled or diseased as to be beyond recovery, by order in writing and stating the reasons therefore, permit any person to hunt 2[such animal or group of animals in a specified area or cause such animal or group of animals in that specified area to be hunted].
(2) The killing or wounding in good faith of any wild animal in defence of oneself or of any other person shall not be an offence: Provided that nothing in this sub-section shall exonerate any person who, when such defence becomes necessary, was committing any act in contravention of any provision of this Act or any rule or order made thereunder.
(3) Any wild animal killed or wounded in defence of any person shall be Government property.
The 2018 amendment bill evidently had given a freehand to the residents in question to chase, injure, maim, and even kill with no to scarce accountability, which went on to insert encumbrance in the intervention of the Chief Wild Life Warden, who did not have to intervene in case of harm to the wildlife. Now with the bill withdrawn, the power now lies with the Chief Wildlife Warden on overlooking the cases where wildlife may get harmed or killed.