India is well known for its diverse flora and fauna. But over the decades, due to illegal trade, hunting, poaching and export of the animals led to rapid decline of India’s wild animals and bird and some of them are extinct, which is cause of main concern. In order to maintain the ecological balance in the environment and sustaining the ecological chain, we have to preserve and protect the wildlife as they are interlinked in nature.
The Constitution of India 1950 also provide the provision related to wildlife protection-
Under the directive principle of state policy, the state have obligation to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country. (Article 48A)
Every citizen of India have the fundamental duty to protect and improve the natural environment including the wildlife provided under Article 51A (g) of Constitution.
The parliament, in order to fulfill the constitutional purpose, had passed a wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 with an aim to protect the country’s wild animals, birds, and plant species, in order to ensure environmental and ecological security. It prohibit hunting of wild animal and also prohibit the trade or commerce in wild animals, animals’ articles and trophies. The violation of this act is treated as a criminal offence and the punishment is given under section 51 and the property which is derived from illegal hunting and trade is liable to forfeiture.
Further, India is signatory to the UN Convention on International Trade In Endangered Species and UN convention against Transnational organized Crime which protect the endangered species and punish the wrongdoer who are involved in illegal trading and poaching etc. According to latest all India survey by the Wildlife Institute of India, there were about 1411 tigers left in India in 2008.
The above case is a landmark case of wildlife protection act 1972. This case is a criminal Appeal. It is judged by two bench at the supreme court of India by the Honorable Mr. Justice Markandey Katju and Mr. Justice T.S. Thakur.
Fact of the Case
In 2010, the Mascot of Commonwealth Game was SHERA, a tiger which is rare to found in today’s times as a result of organized crimes of human like poaching that have pushed wildlife to the stage of extinction and such issue is highlighted in this case.
The appellant (Sansar Chand) had a long history regarding his wildlife crime. He had started the wildlife crime from the age of 16 in 1974. He was arrested for having 680 skins of different wild animals. He also arrested for involving in the activities of poaching, illegal trade of tiger, leopard and skins of other animals and further the appellant along with his gang started a smuggling network in which they send the tiger and leopard’s part and skins outside the Indian Border, especially China. He along with his gang had been booked for 57 wildlife case from year 1964-2005.
In this case, a Balwan was arrested by police in train for having a carton containing leopard’s skin on January 5, 2003. Balwan made disclosure statement to SHO, Bhilwara that the two leopard skins were for the appellant Sanskar Chand. The appellant was arrested and during trial, he was convicted by the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (Railways), Ajmer, Rajasthan on April 29, 2004.
The appellant then filed an appeal against the decree to the Special Judge, SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Cases, who upheld the conviction of the appellant and dismiss the appeal on 19.8.2006. Thereafter, the petitioner filed the Revision Petition in the Rajasthan High Court who also dismissed the petition. Thus, all the above courts found the appellant guilty of the offences charged. Thus the present appeal was filed before the Supreme Court.
The appellant’s contention in the present case was that the above judgement was solely based on the extra-judicial confession made by co-accused Balwan. And the evidence of extra-judicial confession is a weak piece of evidence. Thus no conviction should be solely based on it.
Issues Raised in appeal
- Whether the conviction of the appellant under the wildlife (Protection) Act is justified or not?
- Whether the conviction is solely based on the extra judicial confession or not?
The Supreme Court have granted the leave to hear the appeal. The court examined the evidence of prosecution, oral as well documentary given in the three above court and gave his judgement.
The prosecution’s contention was that the extra judicial confession of accused Balwan was written by Arvind who have neither any friendship nor enmity with the accused Balwan. Arvind had also made disposition in the court that he had written the fact in confession as dictated by accused in custody and accused Balwan agreed on it by putting thumb impression on each pages.
Accused Balwan made this extra judicial confession when he was remanded to judicial custody. Thus, confession can be held to be not made under undue influence, fear or inducement of the Police. In confession, he told address of the accused, he confessed about the money Rs 5000/- and Rs 10,000/- paid by the appellant. And gave information about appellant properties purchased in Delhi in name of him and his wife’s name with the money he made out of his illegal activities stated above.
During investigation, Investigation officer on the basis of the information given by Balwan under Sections 27 Evidence Act had recovered the Knife, capped gun, iron funda, nails of Panthers Paw’s and bones of killed Panthers from the accused house and properties have been found in the name of Sansar Chand. Thus, this extra-judicial confession of the co-accused has been corroborated from the recoveries made in pursuance of the same, the previous conviction of the petitioner by this Hon’ble Court and the number of pending cases showed him as a habitual wild life trader.
The court also refer the precedent given below for extra-judicial confession-
- Thimma vs. the State of Mysore, in this court held that there is no absolute rule that an extra judicial confession can be basis of a conviction, although ordinarily an extra judicial confession should be corroborated by some other evidence.
- Piara Singh vs. State of Punjab, it has been held that the law does not require that evidence of an extra-judicial confession should in all cases be corroborated.
- Shiva Karam Payaswami Tewar vs State of Maharashtra (In The extra judicial confession, the court has to satisfy itself that the confession was voluntary and without any coercion and undue influence.)
In the present case, there are concurrent findings of facts of three courts that the extra-judicial confession made by co-accused Balwan to Arvind Kumar (a fellow prisoner) was voluntary, reliable and trustworthy under Section 24 of the Evidence Act. Therefore, the conviction of the petitioner can be based on the extra-judicial confession of Balwan and the other corroborative evidence on record.
Verdict of the Court
After examining the evidence, The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal and upheld the decision of the High Court who have affirmed the decision of the learned Magistrate and the Special Judge regarding the conviction of the appellant. Further the court also requested to the Central and State Government and their agencies to make all effort to preserve and protect the wild life of the country and take strict action against those who are violating the provision of the wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
The Supreme Court in this case had realized the importance or need for the protection of wildlife as this is very necessary for maintaining the ecological balance in the country. And required to punished the person who violates any section of wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
This case is a historic judgment in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 in which poaching, illegal hunting and illegal trading of wild animal is prohibited and person is severely punished for such offences. In this case, Sansar Chand was convicted for above wildlife crime. In my view, the judgement written by Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju is in the favor of the justice as he affirmed the conviction of appellant who involved in wildlife crime from early age of 16 from the year 1974 to 2005. This case set an example to punish a people who get involved directly or indirectly in such activities, under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.