Orienting the judiciary towards enhanced wildlife crime conviction rates in India
New Delhi: Against a backdrop of low prosecution and conviction rates related to wildlife cases, TRAFFIC alongside WWF-India, Maharashtra Judiciary Academy and Legal Inititative for Forest and Environment (LIFE) organised a special orientation workshop for the judicial officers of Maharashtra, Goa and Daman on 13-14th July at Maharashtra Judiciary Academy, Mumbai.
The meeting aimed to sensitise judicial officers on issues related to wildlife poaching and crime in India and update their knowledge regarding national and international legislation dealing with wildlife, forest and environmental crimes.
Dr Saket Badola, Head of TRAFFIC’s India office said: “For any law in force, it is often not only the level of punishment but the surety of timely conviction, which act as crime deterrents. Proper orientation of judicial officers will ensure better implementation of wildlife, forest and environmental laws and help in controlling the crime.”
The programme was attended by 45 judges representing Maharashtra, Goa and Daman together with the forest department, represented by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF)-Wildlife and Chief Wildlife Warden, Maharashtra; Addl. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (APCCF)-Wildlife, Western Region Maharashtra; and the Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF), Thane. Mr Rajendra Dhongde (retd) Forest Officer; Mr Kartik Shukul (Advocate); Mr Ritwick Dutta (Advocate). Members of TRAFFIC and WWF-India contributed as resource persons during the programme.
Justice Nitin M Jamdar, Judge, High Court of Bombay in his address talked about how conservation and protection of charismatic wildlife species can lead to ecological preservation in an area. He also spoke about the critical linkages between various species and how it becomes imperative during judicial proceedings to consider the impacts of non-charismatic species as well on the entire ecosystem.
Justice B.P. Dharmadhikari, Judge, High Court Bombay and Director, Maharashtra Judicial Academy said, “Over a period of time, Maharashtra has taken steps and passed several resolutions in the prevailing legal systems to protect and better manage the environment and forests. Most of the judges present may be dealing with such cases—therefore this orientation programme is very apt, timely and necessary.”
Justice (retd) Madan Lokur in his address said that it is the moral responsibility of all judges to contribute towards protecting the environment. He highlighted various landmark judgements and principles propounded by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India to strengthen environmental jurisprudence.
Mr Nitin Kakodkar PCCF(WL) and CWLW, Maharashtra spoke about the pivotal role of the judiciary in guiding conservation and protection of the environment and forests. He also explained the various problems that forest staff face while dealing with wildlife criminals and why it is crucial that other stakeholders including the judiciary are needed to help the Forest Department deal with hardened wildlife criminals.
Finally, Ms Moulika Arabhi, Consultant, Centre for Environmental Laws, WWF-India summed up the key issues discussed and covered during the orientation which included an overview of wildlife crime in India with a special focus on Maharashtra; challenges in implementing current wildlife laws; the crucial role of judges in strengthening wildlife cases; the Wildlife (Protection) Act and environmental jurisprudence.
Feedback from the participants was encouraging, with high levels of interest expressed in each session.