Security forces personnel cannot ignore wildlife crime even though their principal duty is to ensure security of the area they are deployed in, the officiating Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court has said.
A Sashastra Seema Bal jawan posted on the frontier cannot overlook any attempt to smuggle out precious wildlife or wildlife parts from the country even though his or her principal duty is to guard the frontier.
“Same is the case with the Army and other paramilitary forces who are expected to play a contributory role in helping forest and police personnel in preventing wildlife crimes,” Justice N. Kotiswar Singh said.
This was because the fundamental duties as enshrined in the Constitution of India required all the citizens to protect the natural environment, forest, water bodies and wildlife, he added.
“Prevention and mitigation of wildlife crimes that have acquired an alarming proportional all over the globe, require multifaceted and coordinated efforts among various stakeholders including forest personnel, police, border guards, paramilitary forces, Army and other agencies concerned,” he said at a sensitisation workshop on wildlife crimes in western Assam’s Bongaigaon last week.
The workshop was organised by the Assam State Legal Services Authority and Aaranyak, an Assam-based biodiversity conservation organisation.
Chief Justice Singh underlined some fine points that “must not be overlooked while apprehending a wildlife criminal or making seizures” important in cases related to wildlife crimes.
Addressing the workshop, Justice Soumitra Saikia of the Gauhati High Court highlighted some key provisions in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, as well as the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure that are equally applicable.
“In judiciary, we can’t suggest or direct the government to frame a law. We are only required to decide in any given facts and circumstances of a case whether particular action by the authority or particular right claimed by the person or accused is capable of being granted under the provision of the (relevant) Act,” he said.
Aaranyak’s secretary-general Bibhab Kumar Talukdar flagged the unwarranted links among wildlife crimes, narco-terrorism and arms smuggling that have posed a grave threat to the national security and the country’s biodiversity-rich northeast.
“The need of the hour is for synergy among various enforcement agencies, forest, police, security forces and judiciary in combating the global menace called wildlife crimes,” he said.