Last month, the Supreme Court upheld an Allahabad High Court order granting immunity from investigation and prosecution if one declared illegal acquisition or possession of exotic wildlife species.
- The MoEFCC has come out with an advisory on a one-time voluntary disclosure amnesty scheme.
- It allows owners of exotic live species that have been acquired illegally, or without documents, to declare their stock to the government between June and December 2020.
- The scheme aims to address the challenge of zoonotic diseases and regulate their import. In its current form, however.
- It shall develop an inventory of exotic live species for better compliance under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
- However, the amnesty scheme is just an advisory, not a law
What kind of exotic wildlife is covered?
- The advisory has defined exotic live species as animals named under the Appendices I, II and III of the CITES.
- It does not include species from the Schedules of the Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972.
- So, a plain reading of the advisory excludes exotic birds from the amnesty scheme.
Why need such a scheme?
- The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), which enforces anti-smuggling laws, says India has emerged as a big demand centre for exotic birds and animals.
- There has been an increase in smuggling of endangered species from different parts of the world.
- Most of these exotic wildlife is imported through Illegal channels and then sold in the domestic market as pets.
- The long international border and air routes are used to source consignments from Bangkok, Malaysia and other top tourist destinations in South East Asia, as well as from Europe into India.