Parliamentary panel cautions against trade in captive elephants

Amended Bill has introduced an exemption clause to allow for sale and purchase of captive elephants

April 14, 2022 06:19 pm | Updated 06:19 pm IST - New Delhi

Photo used for representation purpose only. File

Photo used for representation purpose only. File | Photo Credit: M. Srinath

Do not encourage sale and purchase of captive elephants, the Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change, headed by senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, has recommended. The Parliamentary panel has urged the government to remove the controversial clause in the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021 that overrides the original Act, making an exception only for the pachyderm.

The Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill 2021 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 17, 2021 and was referred to the Parliamentary panel on December 25. The panel is meeting on Monday for a final round of meeting on its report on the legislation.

Section 43 of the principal Act clearly states: “No person having in his possession captive animal, animal article, trophy or uncured trophy in respect of which he has a certificate of ownership shall transfer by way of sale or offer for sale or by any other mode of consideration of commercial nature, such animal or article or trophy or uncured trophy.”

The amended Bill that was on the panel’s table introduces an exemption clause to Section 43, which says: “This section shall not apply to the transfer or transport of any live elephant by a person having a certificate of ownership, where such person has obtained prior permission from the State Government on fulfilment of such conditions as may be prescribed by the Central Government.”

‘Careful balance’

The standing committee has strongly recommended the deletion of this exemption clause for elephants. The committee has argued for a “careful balance” between traditions and conservation. “The Standing Committee is deeply conscious of the fact that a number of religious and cultural institutions in some states own elephants which play a crucial role in daily worship and rituals. That is why it has attempted to strike a careful balance to ensure that age-old traditions are not interfered with while at the same time addressing widespread concerns that nothing should be done to even give an impression that private ownership of elephants and trade in them is going to be encouraged,” the committee report accessed by The Hindu read.

The committee at the same time has recommended that the government could bring in additional checks to allow sale and purchase by religious institutions. The 2021 amendment Bill proposes 50 amendments in the existing Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

The amended Bill also seeks to rework the protection Schedules. Instead of the present six Schedules in the principal Act, the Bill proposes three Schedules — Schedule I for species that will enjoy the highest level of protection, Schedule II for species that will be subject to a lesser degree of protection, and Schedule III that covers plants.

‘Species missing’

In principle, the standing committee endorsed the proposal but pointed out many discrepancies with the compilation. The report said that a number of species is missing in all the three Schedules. “The committee also finds species that should be in Schedule I but have been placed in Schedule II. There are species missing altogether both in Schedules I and II as well as in Schedule III,” the report states. 

The Bill also fails to address “human-animal conflict”, the committee noted.

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