‘No action for keeping exotic animals after voluntary disclosure’

Subsequent govt. inquiry will defeat purpose of Voluntary Disclosure Scheme: HC

November 05, 2020 12:30 am | Updated 12:31 am IST - New Delhi

The Delhi High Court has said that once a person voluntarily discloses keeping exotic birds or animals under the Centre’s Voluntary Disclosure Scheme, he can’t be investigated for their ownership, trade and breeding.

A Bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan said that once a voluntary disclosure is made under the scheme within the stipulated time period of six months, no inquiry or action can be initiated against the person for possession, breeding or transportation of the exotic species within India, by the officers of any government agency or department.

“Action of subsequent inquiry by the government after voluntary disclosure would be wholly illegal, arbitrary, unreasonable, unsustainable and would defeat the very purpose of the scheme,” the court said.

The High Court’s order came on plea by Khodiyar Animal Welfare Trust, seeking a direction to the Environment Ministry to also include in its voluntary disclosure advisory other vulnerable exotic animals and birds, which are not mentioned in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species on Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), but require protection.

The advisory dated June 11, 2020 dealt with import of exotic live species in India and declaration of stock of such fauna.

The trust, which is involved in maintenance of rescue shelters for animals of Indian origin as well as exotic species, had contended that the advisory does not sufficiently specify the nature of protection offered and discourages the people from declaring their stock.

It further argued that the advisory limits the operation only to those exotic species that are mentioned in Appendices I, II and III of the CITES whereas many other threatened species also require protection, but are left out from the its ambit.

On the suggestion to enlarge the scope of the advisory to all exotic live species, the Ministry said further advisories can be issued to include other vulnerable exotic live species.

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