India is a land with a rich heritage of wild life. India is home to many big animals and smaller species in large numbers. The Indian jungles are famous and immortalized by Rudyard Kipling in his Mowgli books. Elephants, Rhinoceroses, tigers and lions are all at home in the Indian jungles. To get a magnitude of the wild life in India one has only to examine the numbers of these animals as they existed throughout history. Reports indicate that the elephant population number over 500,000 and the lion roamed all over India. The tiger population was over 100,000. But indiscriminate poaching and hunting by Maharajahs and their ilk, depleted the wild life dangerously. The British who for a long period ruled India were not concerned about Indian wild life and over the years the Lion almost became extinct and the number of tigers dwindled dangerously. There were also only 5 wild life parks available when India became free in 1947.
With a dwindling population of wild life in India with mass scale hunting and poaching and deforestation , which destroyed the natural habitat of the Indian species the government of India with pressure from wild life enthusiasts thought it fit to pass a stringent law to curb such practices and also give statutory recognition to game parks and animal reserves. Thus the Indian Wild Life Protection Act 1972 was enacted by the Indian parliament. The law was made applicable to the entire India state except Jammu and Kashmir which enacted its own wild life act.
The law for the first time regulated the setting up and control of game parks to be referred to as National Parks and declared many species as protected animals and also provided for stringent punishments for poachers or other persons who killed wild animals. Effectively the act banned hunting for pleasure or sport.
The act has six schedules which cover the entire gamut of wild life.
a) Schedule I and II are the most potent sections of the act. This section covers animals which are in the category of endangered species. The sections in this schedule give absolute protection to certain species and these cannot be infringed on any account. The value of these sections can bee seen from the fact that the famous actor Salman Khan was sentenced to 5 years rigorous imprisonment for shooting a black buck in Rajasthan. The case is under appeal in the high court. In addition 16 persons have been convicted and sentenced to various terms of prison up to 7 years for killing a tiger.
b) Schedule III and IV. These also have roughly the same provisions of Section I and II, but cover animals that are not in danger of becoming extinct. The penalties under this section are also less than Schedule I and II.
c) Schedule V delineates animals that can be hunted like ducks and deer’s. For this purpose the hunter has to apply for a license to the District Forest Officer who will allow a hunter to shoot during a specific season and restricted area. Any infringement can lead to cancellation of the hunting license.
d) Schedule VI concerns cultivation and plant life and gives teeth to setting up more protected animal parks.
The Indian Wild life protection act is a god send for wild life conservation in India and gives sweeping powers to law enforcement authorities to punish anybody guilty under the act.