Amendment in Wildlife Act to empower Assam

Gauhati: In response to Assam government seeking changes in the Wildlife Protection Act the Centre recently gave its assent. Amendments in the Wildlife Protection Act will now add more teeth to wildlife crime control efforts in the state. Assam’s Minister for Forest and Environment Rockybul Hussain informed that with the new amendments coming into force punishment for various wildlife crimes would become more stringent. He said henceforth all offence under the Act would be non-bailable and prison terms for various offences would become more stringent.

“Wildlife offences that earlier involved jail terms between three to seven years, will now draw extended prison term for the accused between seven to ten years. Maximum amount of fine for various crimes too has been increased from Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000,” the minister said adding that these amendments will be applicable in Assam. Earlier, a person convicted for a second time under Wildlife Act in Assam had to serve jail term between three to seven years. Now, because of the amended provisions of the Act such offenders would be jailed for at least ten years or even life imprisonment. The fine amount for such cases too has been increased from Rs 25,000 to Rs 75,000.

In the light of the amendments, all wildlife cases committed in Assam will now be first heard in a court not below the Court of District and Sessions Judge. Earlier, these cases were first heard in lower courts. “We are happy that the Centre has given assent to the amendments requested by Assam government. The amendments which are being put into force will act as deterrent to poachers,” Hussain said.

Forest and Wildlife authority in Assam as well as various NGOs working in the sector have been calling for the need to have stringent penal provisions under the Wildlife Act given that accused usually get away with light punishment under the existing law provisions.

Assam Assembly had passed the Wildlife Protection (Assam Amendment) Bill 2009 last year and it was referred to the Centre for Presidential approval. Before tabling the amendment Bill in the Assembly, Assam Forest department consulted different departments of the state, wildlife experts, NGOs and members of the judiciary.