JUDICIARY TO HELP CURB WILDLIFE CRIME IN MEGHALAYA
Keeping this in mind, TRAFFIC; Centre of Environmental Law, WWF-India; and the Meghalaya State Judicial Academy recently organised a sensitisation and an orientation programme on Forest and Wildlife Conservation Laws for the Judiciary in Meghalaya on 25-26 June 2022 at the High Court of Meghalaya, Shillong. The programme successfully brought together various stakeholders for effective wildlife conservation and protection, including the Judiciary, forest department and wildlife experts.
Northeast India is often targeted by poachers and wildlife traffickers for its abundant wildlife and forest reserves. The region is also exploited as a transit route for illicit wildlife trafficking across international borders. These states also record instances of bushmeat hunting, among other wildlife crimes. Gaps with investigation and conviction need to be addressed for successful convictions that are a critical deterrent to wildlife crimes. Therefore sensitisation and support of the judicial system in the region are crucial.
The programme in Meghalaya was attended by over 40 judicial officers, including the High Court and District Court Judges of Meghalaya, together with the Meghalaya Forest Department, represented by Mr S M Sahai, IFS, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF)-Wildlife and Chief Wildlife Warden, Meghalaya, and Mr MBK Reddy, IFS, Addl. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (APCCF)-Wildlife, Meghalaya.
Hon’ble Justice Madan B. Lokur; Dr Saket Badola IFS, Conservator of Forest, Uttarakhand Forest Department; Mr ADN Rao, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India, Prof (Dr) Archna Negi, Associate Professor, JNU, and Ms Moulika Arabhi, WWF-India led the sessions that were designed to include case studies and discussion exercises.
In the presidential address, Hon’ble Justice Sanjib Banerjee, Chief Justice, High Court of Meghalaya, said, “Laws not only need to be made but also need to be implemented”. He shared insights from various judgments where the Judiciary’s actions enormously impacted the restoration of nature. Hon’ble Justice Banerjee also praised the initiatives by NGOs to interact with the Judiciary to raise awareness about wildlife crime.
Dr Saket Badola, IFS, Conservator of Forest, Uttarakhand Forest Department and Former Head of TRAFFIC’s India office, stressed on issues related to poaching and wildlife crime by providing an overview of the drivers and emerging challenges of the illegal wildlife trade, the role India plays as a source country for derivatives in the illicit wildlife trade, and its recent emergence as a demand country. Dr Badola also provided an insight into the illegal wildlife trade scenario in northeast India and its emergence in the trafficking routes of exotic species, reflected by seizures in different states.
Mr ADN Rao, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India, in his session on ‘Courts on Forest and Wildlife: Legal and policy overview,’ discussed the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and the concept of Protected Areas and eco-sensitive zones. He discussed the different legal and environmental issues in various parts of India. He also brought forward many pivotal environment-related cases and the impact of the judgements.
Ms Moulika Arabhi, Centre for Environment Law, WWF-India, presented an overview of wildlife legislation through Acts and jurisprudence. She also gave an overview of India’s Wildlife (Protection) Act and its various amendments.
In his address, Justice Madan Lokur highlighted the various principles that served as the basis for important judgments propounded by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India to strengthen environmental jurisprudence and sustain human rights for a healthier environment. He shared detailed insight into many landmark judgments by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.
The programme is part of a continuous endeavour by TRAFFIC and WWF-India to work with the Judiciary to gain their support for wildlife conservation and protection. Similar orientation and sensitisation programmes have been organised in Maharashtra, Mizoram, Karnataka, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, among other states.