Supreme Court upholds Centre's amnesty scheme on exotic birds and animals

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde has upheld an Allahabad High Court judgment in this regard.

FP Staff November 22, 2020 14:54:51 IST
Supreme Court upholds Centre's amnesty scheme on exotic birds and animals

File image of the Supreme Court of India. Reuters

The Supreme Court has upheld a scheme of the Central government to shield from prosecution those who make voluntary disclosure of exotic animals and birds between June and December this year.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde has upheld an Allahabad High Court judgment in this regard.

The bench dismissed an appeal, which sought investigation and prosecution for acquisition, possession and trade of exotic wildlife species notwithstanding the government's scheme.

The Allahabad High Court held that it will not be open for any other agency to investigate and prosecute anyone making such declarations during the six-month window, under the Voluntary Disclosure Scheme.

The petition in the case was filed by one Dinesh Chandra.

Before the Allahabad High Court, the central government had opposed Chandra’s petition, emphasising that several such amnesty schemes with immunity from prosecution have been announced in the past too. The government maintained it would defeat the entire purpose of the scheme if the declarants were to face investigations and prosecutions.

In response to the petition, the Allahabad High Court had noted the government had come out with the amnesty scheme in the direction to regulate possession and trade of exotic species, which had been kept out of the ambit of the Wildlife Protection Act so far.

It said the ‘voluntary disclosure scheme" was introduced in wider public interest and announced immunity for a limited window of six months to promote and invite voluntary disclosure declaration.

“During this limited interregnum of six months, any inquiry or action against procession, breeding or transportation of exotic species within India by officers of any government agency or department, whether of Central or State, would be wholly illegal, arbitrary, unreasonable, unsustainable and would defeat the purpose of the voluntary disclosure scheme," ruled the bench.

Similarly, Rajasthan High Court had in a separate case also held that anyone seeking to avail this scheme by making voluntary declaration of such exotic live species in his domestic possession and subjecting himself to future regulatory requirements, shall be entitled to the immunity promised under the scheme. It added that declarant should not act on the basis of any apprehension, such as seizure, summon, confiscation, enquiry in relation to such declared exotic species in domestic possession neither under Customs Act, 1962 nor any other law.

In a more recent judgment this month, the Delhi High Court also held that once a voluntary disclosure is made under the scheme within the stipulated six months no inquiry or action can be initiated against the person for possession, breeding or transportation of the exotic species within India by the officers of any government agency or department.

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