It will help them handle cases better, says Chief Justice
‘District courts not giving enough attention
to forest offences’
‘Judiciary has backed Forest Department
in fight against eco-terrorism’
BANGALORE: Poaching and trafficking in wildlife constitute the second largest illegal trade in the world, S.R. Bannurmath, Senior High Court Judge and president of Karnataka Judicial Academy, has said.
He was speaking at a two-day orientation programme for judicial officers and senior forest officers on wildlife conservation, organised by the Karnataka Judicial Academy, Department of Forests and World Wildlife Fund India and TRAFFIC-India here on Saturday.
India’s porous borders with its neighbours including Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan had made the country emerge as a major transit point for illegal wildlife trade. Efforts to prevent poaching of wildlife and international trade in wildlife had not been fully successful, Justice Bannurmath said.
Though the conviction rate in offences relating to forest and wildlife offences was very low, the Supreme Court of India and the High Courts had adopted a pro-active approach in the last few decades when such cases had come up before them. It was unfortunate that the district courts were not giving adequate attention to forest offences as they are classified as non-human offences. This, he said, should stop and the lower judiciary should be more sensitive to such cases.
Citing examples, Justice Bannurmath said that some of India’s wildlife such as tigers, Ganges dolphin, sambar deer, wild water buffalow, king cobra, black buck and langur were on the endangered species list. Sandalwood trees were also becoming extinct, thanks to ruthless and illegal felling, he said
Cyriac Joseph, Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court, said that judges should be sensitised to various provisions of the Wildlife Act and forest offences. This would help them handle cases better, Mr. Cyriac Joseph said. The judiciary had always been supportive of wildlife and environment, he said.
A.K. Verma, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, said that the judiciary had backed the Forest Department in its fight against “eco- terrorism.” The department was facing problems such as fifty per cent vacancies and lack of adequate infrastructure. Besides, there was no infusion of young blood and the department was not as well-equipped as the police, he said.
Forests in Karnataka hosted 25 per cent of the country’s elephant population and 10 per cent of tigers, he said.
Moulika Arabhi, Programme Coordinator, Centre for Environmental Law, spoke. High Court judges, senior officials of the Forest Department and judicial officers were present.