• Mon. May 27th, 2024

PMLA relevant in dealing with wildlife crimes: SC Judge Ujjal Bhuyan

Stating that protection of wildlife is a crucial component of the greater subject of environment protection, Justice Ujjal Bhuyan of the Supreme Court of India has highlighted that the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) becomes relevant in dealing with wildlife crimes for money laundering and wildlife crimes are ‘intrinsically connected’.

Addressing a workshop on ‘Deterring Wildlife Crimes: Challenges and Opportunities’ organised in Mizoram Bench of Gauhati High Court here on Thursday, as the chief guest Justice Bhuyan said since proceeds from wildlife crimes could be dealt with provisions of the PMLA Act, the offences under the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act are also included in PMLA Act.

The workshop was organised under the aegis of Mizoram State Legal Services Authority and biodiversity conservation organisation Aaranyak with objectives to facilitate synergy among various stakeholders including the judiciary in prevention of burgeoning wildlife crimes.

Stating that organised wildlife crimes which have transcended geographically barriers across the world, are among the four major crimes across the world along with illegal trade in narcotic drug, arms smuggling, human trafficking warned, Justice Bhuyan raised concern that to escape severe crackdown and capital punishment in various countries criminals involved in drug trade have now shifted focus to wildlife crimes which are found equally remunerative.

He also underscored that a wildlife forensic institution is required in Northeast India which boasts very rich diversity of wildlife species and hence prone to wildlife crimes, to boost investigation of wildlife crimes and enhance conviction rate in the region.

Justice Bhuyan emphasised on boosting intelligence gathering apparatus, capacity building, creation of data banks on wildlife crimes and criminals and use of forensic sciences besides bolstering protection mechanisms in country’s National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries by adding more teeth to existing law provisions.

Addressing the workshop as the Guest of Honour Justice Prasanna B Varale of the Supreme Court said, “India is a goldmine of biodiversity and boasts a rainbow of wildlife species. Wildlife crimes pose danger to the ecological balance in the globe and India is no exception to it.”

Flagging need for sustained collaboration among various stakeholders for prevention of wildlife crimes, Justice Varale prescribed for fast track court, reduction of delay in investigation to increase conviction rate in wildlife crime cases, public participation in the prevention, regular review of WLPA to improve enforcement, investigation and conviction, use of DNA analysis, drones, satellite imageries for protection of wildlife in the country.

Calling for coordination among forest officials, state machinery and public in prevention of wildlife crimes, Justice Varale asked members of the Bar to come forward to participate in wildlife crime cases under legal services authority.

He also said that tribal communities’ age-old commitment to protect wildlife should be upheld and respected and mooted strong enforcement of wildlife legislation.

In his welcome address Justice Machael Zothankhuma of Gauhati High Court said the workshop which was also graced by another two Judges of the High Court Justice Nelson Sailo and Justice Marli Vankung, was of great importance at this crucial juncture when wildlife crimes have posed grave threat to delicate balance of the ecosystem.

The CEO and Secretary General of Aaranyak Dr Bibhab Kumar Talukdar addressing the workshop highlighted the utmost requirement of synergy among various stakeholders including the legal fraternity in combating and preventing organised wildlife crimes. He pointed out that India’s frontier Northeast Region which has high wildlife diversity and is surrounded by largely porously borders, is in focus of global wildlife criminals and has become a transit route of illegal wildlife trade.

Inspector General of Mizoram Police Lalbiakthanga Khiangte and senior Customs official Malsawmtluanga made elaborate presentations on the sustained efforts by Mizoram Police and Customs Department in prevention of wildlife crimes in the bordering state.

Making a presentation in the technical session, the Field Director of Dampa Tiger Reserve I Mizoram Agni Mitra explained how the bordering Northeast Region stands vulnerable to wildlife crimes because of porous borders and proximity to the infamous Golden Triangle.
Senior Law Consultant of Aaranyak and a lawyer in Gauhati High Court Ajoy Kumar Das in his presentation highlighted the enhanced efficacy of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 in the wake of Amendments 2022 and explained how the investigating agencies and the judiciary can exploit the amended Act for increasing conviction rate in wildlife crime cases.

The workshop attended by an august gathering including three the chief secretary and DGP of Meghalaya, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest and Chief Wildlife Warden of Mizoram, senior officials of Mizoram Police, Customs officials, senior officials of the state Judiciary, President of Mizoram Bar Association and Bar members, faculties and students of Aizawl Law College.

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