SC Forms Committee To Oversee Transfer OR Import Of Wild Animals In India

Court at A Glance

The Supreme Court recently has extended the Pan-India jurisdiction of a High-Powered Committee established by the High Court of Tripura for the transfer or import of wild animals in India. A bench consisting of Justice Krishna Murari and Justice A Amanullah passed the order.

A petitioner approached the Supreme Court seeking clarification on a previous order of the court concerning a PIL concerning the transfer/ sale/ gift/ entrustment of wild and captive elephants within the State of Karnataka to private individuals, specifically the Radha Krishna Temple Elephant Welfare Trust.

The main point of contention in the PIL was that it was the State’s responsibility to care for abandoned or rescued elephants, and such animals should not be entrusted to any private Trust. The petitioner sought clarification that the High Court and Supreme Court orders applied only to the elephant population in the state of Karnataka and not to any other state or territory.

Radha Krishna Temple Elephant Welfare Trust, on the other hand, contended that such PILs were baseless and frequently filed against individuals acting with philanthropic goals of caring for abandoned or rescued elephants, causing an unnecessary drain on their resources that could otherwise be used for the welfare of the rescued animals.

The trust clarified that it rescued and rehabilitated wild/captive elephants in need of long-term care due to injury/old age, abusive captivity, such as circuses and street begging, among other things. The trust also claimed that it was not a breeding facility and that it made no commercial profits from the rescued and rehabilitated animals.

The PIL was dismissed by the Supreme Court because it lacked merit. It also considered a Tripura High Court decision that, when dealing with a PIL like the one in this case, declined relief and established a High Powered Committee to oversee the transfer of elephants from the Northeast part of the country to the elephant camp of Radha Krishna Temple Elephant Welfare Trust.

Justice Deepak Verma, a retired Supreme Court judge, serves as the HPC’s Chairman. Members of the HPC included the Director General of Forests (Union of India), the Head of Project Elephant Division (MoEF), the Member Secretary (Central Zoo Authority of India), the Chief Wild Life Warden (State of Tripura), and the Chief Wild Life Warden (State of Tripura) (State of Gujarat). While stating that such a committee would not only advance the cause of wild animal welfare, care, and rehabilitation, but would also reduce the number of frivolous PILs filed before various High Courts in the matter, the court directed that the HPC’s jurisdiction be extended on a pan-India basis.
“We deem it appropriate to extend the jurisdiction and scope of the High Powered Committee as constituted by the High Court of Tripura, with the modification that the Chief Wild Life Warden(s) of the State(s) to which the issue relates will be co-opted as Members of the said Committee in place of the Chief Wild Life Wardens of Tripura and Gujarat, throughout the territory of India, leaving it open to the Committee to conduct necessary checks and to determine the issue,” the Court stated.

The court also stated that the Committee may consider any request for approval, dispute, or grievance concerning the transfer or import into India, procurement, or welfare of wild animals by any rescue or rehabilitation centre or zoo, with assistance and cooperation from all departments and authorities across India as needed.

“We further direct that all State and Central Authorities shall forthwith report seizure of wild animals or abandonment of captive wild animals to the Committee, and the Committee shall be free to recommend transfer of ownership of captive animals or seized wild animals to any willing rescue centre or zoo for their immediate welfare, care, and rehabilitation,” the Court added.

Recommended For You

About the Author: Isha Das