Environment & Biodiversity

Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill and the Forests rights

The Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021 was approved by the Rajya Sabha. The Bill was approved by the Lok Sabha during the monsoon session. The impact of the criminal legal framework supported by the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) is less well known, despite the fact that aspects of protecting species against wildlife trade in accordance with international standards have been examined by civil society, lawmakers, and the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2022

  • The most recent amendment strengthens the idea of protected regions and species by increasing the penalties for violators and expanding the list of protected species.
  • The Wild Life (Protection) Act of 1972 is amended by the Bill by adding more species to the list of those that are protected.
  • The Bill includes 50 suggested changes to the Act.
  • This bill changes the definition of “Wild Life” to “Tiger and other Endangered Species,” including flora, wildlife, and aquatic life.
  • In accordance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the Bill also restricts the trade in wild animals (CITES).

Criminal laws and wildlife conservation: latest amendment

  • Criminal laws are still upheld: Since its inception, the requirement for criminal legislation to support wildlife conservation has gone uncontested.
  • Animal-human conflict is not properly understood: Without criminal law, State and Forest Department control over forests and the casteist foundations of conservation would not have been possible, leading to everything from restricted hunting to outright prohibition and the creation of “Protected Areas (PA)” where conservation can be carried out without the interference of local forest-dwelling communities. In this situation, the true cost of criminalization under the WPA has been hidden by pitting wildlife species against communities as human-animal conflict.
  • Untrustworthy WPA’s police structure: The recent decision to increase fines for general infractions by four times (from 25,000 to 1,00,000) and for animals receiving the most protection by increasing them from 10,000 to 25,000 should make people wonder what kind of policing the WPA fosters.

Research conducted by the Madhya Pradesh-based Criminal Justice and Police Accountability Project (CPA Project)

  • According to records, people from suppressed caste communities like Scheduled Tribes and other populations that live in forests make up the majority of those who are accused of crimes involving wildlife.
  • It was discovered that the forest department uses the threat of criminalization to induce collaboration, in addition to coming up with a method of using community members as informants and winning their loyalty by paying them on a daily wage basis.
  • Cases filed not just for significant crimes: The majority of prosecution in PAs involved the collection of wood, honey, and even mushrooms; cases filed under the WPA did not merely concern the comparably serious crime of hunting.
  • Files for cases that are still open: More than 95% of the Forest Department’s cases are still pending.
  • The majority of lawsuits were brought for hunting less protected animals: Over 17.47% of the animals considered to have been “hunted” between 2016 and 20 were Schedule III and IV animals (wild boars), which are subject to less protection than tigers and elephants. Only one of the top five most hunted animals belonged to Schedule I. (peacock). Surprisingly, more than 8% of the cases submitted involved fish (just a few species were moved to Schedule I). In Madhya Pradesh, 133 lawsuits involving fishing that were mistakenly labelled as Schedule V species were submitted in the previous ten years.
  • Making the FRA a subordinate of the WPA: The Forest Rights Act (FRA) was implemented to address the inequality caused by the laws governing forest governance. It includes both individual and collective forest rights. These rights recognised livelihoods reliant on the forest. However, doing so would make the FRA a slave to the WPA in inviolate PAs, hindering the WPA’s implementation.


Since the department’s criminal prosecutions are intended to have a “deterrent effect” by causing fear in communities, they are rarely multiplied. The department uses fear as a key tool to mediate administration in protected regions, and its officers are rarely subject to checks on their authority. The WPA and other forest laws’ unchecked discretionary enforcement provisions have limited the FRA’s ability to emancipate its citizens. Any additional changes must consider erroneous circumstances (as in the case of fishing) and the subsequent criminalization of the rights and way of life of communities who live in forests.

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