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By Kumkum Poonia

Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister, Bhupendra Yadav introduced the controversial Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Bill in Rajya Sabha, 2022; gets a pass from the Upper House. The bill was earlier introduced and cleared in Lok Sabha in August during the Monsoon Session. It seeks to conserve, strengthen the protection of endangered species, enhance punishments for illegal wildlife trade and aims towards a better implementation of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to which India is a signatory.  CITES, in force since 1975, is an internationally recognized agreement between the member countries that aims towards regulation of trade regarding species that are critically under threat.

There has been a controversy over the bill due toits provisions under Section 43 that permits the use of elephants for religious or ‘any other purpose’. This makes trading of elephants possible. Stating that the elephant is an animal of national heritage, Congress Member, Mr. Jairam Ramesh asked, “The Minister has also included the words ‘any other purpose’. What are these words supposed to stand for?” Yadavassured that the elephants will be conserved and given proper protection under the provisions of the Act.Adding to the that, Yadav also said that along with the protection of wildlife, the rights of the people residing there since ages are also equally important and has permitted certain activities like livestock grazing and use of drinking and household water. Meanwhile, Sushmita Devi of Trinamool Congress also expressed her concern saying that the amendment violates Section 27 of the Act.

The bill will be looking after better management and preservation of protected areas and towards rationalising schedules which lists out species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. It has put forward a new schedule of species of flora and fauna listed under CITES. The Central Government now holds certain additional powers to regulate the import and trade or possession of certain ‘invasive plants or animal alien species. It also holds an authority to appoint a Management Authority under Section 49 E and a Scientific Authority. The bill seeks to enhance penalties under the Act by increasing the fine for ‘General violations’ from maximum fine of Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 1 lakh and given the condition of Specially protected animals, the minimum fine has been raised from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 25,000.

All in all, the amendment paves a way towards India’s obligations towards preservation of critically endangered species of flora and fauna under CITES, and also helps India to stand at par with countries which have independent legal frameworks in accordance with CITES.

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