The Union government has notified the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2022, intended to strengthen the protection of endangered species and enhance punishment for illegal wildlife trade.
The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in August and Rajya Sabha in December, this year.
Notably, India is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora that required certain legislative actions.
This amendment proposed a new schedule for species listed in the Appendices under CITES.
Section 6 has been amended to constitute Standing Committee to exercise such powers and duties as may be delegated to it by the State Board for Wildlife.
Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav has said though protecting forest land is critical, it is equally important to safeguard the rights of the people who have been residing there since ages.
He said the NDA government has taken steps to increase the green cover in the country since taking over the reins in 2014, and it is bound to protect wildlife according to the provisions of the law.
The Bill, which had undergone the scrutiny of a parliamentary panel, seeks to conserve and protect wildlife through better management of protected areas and rationalise schedules, which list out species under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
According to the statement of objects and reasons of the Bill, the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 was enacted to provide for the protection of wild animals, birds and plants with a view to ensure the ecological and environmental security of the country.
The law aimed to increase protection for species. It planned to do this by implementing the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in the Act.
One of the most important amendments has been made to Section 43 by permitting elephants, Schedule I animals, to be used for ‘religious or any other purpose’.
This amendment has been criticised by wildlife activists and animal experts.
During the debate, Yadav also said the Bill will be beneficial for tribal and forest-dwelling communities as it permits activities like grazing, movement of livestock, etc.
Other amendments introduced by the Bill include the insertion of a new Schedule for species listed under CITES Appendices as well as the constitution of a Standing Committee to exercise powers and duties delegated by the State Wildlife Boards, in Section 6.
A proposed new Section 49E provides for the designation of a Management Authority by the central government.
The Authority will be responsible for the issuance of permits and certificates for trade in scheduled specimens in accordance with the CITES and the submission of reports.
It shall also perform other functions that may be necessary to implement the provisions of the Convention.
Another Section 49F will empower the Centre to designate one or more institutes engaged in research on species as a Scientific Authority to advise the Management Authority and monitor the export permits granted for specimens of species listed in Appendix II of Schedule IV and the actual export of such specimens.