|Review of Wildlife Crime Trial Court Judgments in Maharashtra
WPSI Legal Programme
7 January 2014
offences are tried in magistrate's courts across India, and the
judgments in these cases have not been freely available. With the
ongoing digitization of court records, this information is now becoming
available for analysis.
Several judgments of trial courts in Maharashtra are now available online at http://court.mah.nic.in/courtweb/index.php.
A search of the website for cases registered under the Wild Life
(Protection) Act, 1972 (the WPA) leads to 147 judgments being available
(last searched on 4 December 2014). These relate to cases registered
between1995 and 2014, and the judgments were all delivered between 15
October 2008 and 24 November 2014.
Of these 147 trial court
judgments under the WPA, only 17 have recorded convictions, or a
success rate of 11.56% for the prosecution. We are hesitant to term
this as a "conviction rate" since it is not certain that all trial
court judgments under the WPA have been uploaded for Maharashtra for
the time period.
If the judgments are further filtered to take
into account only cases relating to poaching, illegal possession and
trade of wild animals, there are a total of 108 cases in which 16
convictions were recorded, or a success rate of 14.81%.
of conviction are not reliable figures by which to gauge levels of
implementation of the law since an independent judiciary decides each
case on its merits. However, they are a valuable marker by which the
efficiency of investigation and prosecution agencies can be evaluated.
The low success rates stated above, as well as the judgments
themselves, point to serious lacunae in the investigation,
documentation, and prosecution of wildlife crime in Maharashtra. Such a
low conviction rate has serious implications for the deterrence value
of the law.
Most of the judgments reveal that even when the
investigation agency claims to have caught the accused “red handed”,
the prosecution has been unable to prove the accused was in possession
of the illegal items. The norm is for witnesses to turn hostile, and
often the prosecution / investigation authorities have not shown up in
court. A large number of the cases have resulted in acquittals due to
the lack of independent witnesses to corroborate the facts alleged by
In quite a few cases, articles that the
investigation agencies claimed to have seized were not produced before
the court. Another common error is the use of incorrect provisions of
the WPA to prosecute offences.
Most judgments do
not involve a discussion of which Schedule of the WPA the concerned
species is listed in, and the corresponding provisions of the WPA.
However, the prosecution has often been unable to prove any of the
alleged facts, rendering even such basic discussion unnecessary.
cause for serious concern is that in 4 of the cases in which
convictions have been recorded, the magistrates have not sentenced the
accused to the mandatory minimum punishment prescribed by the WPA.
Offences in relation to animals specified in Schedule I and Part II of
the WPA carry a prescribed penalty of not less than three years
imprisonment, which may extend up to seven years and also a fine of not
less than ten thousand Rupees.These cases are non-compoundable.
one case involving a conviction in respect of live sloth bears (listed
in Schedule I of the WPA), the accused was awarded a sentence of one
day’s imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 3,000.In another case involving
the seizure of a blackbuck skin (listed in Schedule I of the WPA), the
accused was sentenced to six months imprisonment and a fine of Rs.
2,500. The accused in a case involving the seizure of a piece of
tiger skin, and a paw (listed in Schedule I of the WPA) was awarded a
sentence of 130 days imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 20,000.
should be pointed out that according to the National Crime Records
Bureau, while the over-all conviction rate in India in the year 2012
for crimes under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 was 38.5%, the
corresponding figure for Maharashtra was only 9.4%.
investigation and prosecution of wildlife crime in Maharashtra is
clearly a matter of concern that needs to be reviewed by the State
 First proviso to Section 51(1) of the WPA.
 State v. Sahebji Hussain Darveshi and another, judgment dated 23 January 2001, in Criminal Case No. 248/2007, before the JMFC Ichalkaranji.
 State v. Jay Niwruti Parakhe, judgment dated 19 September 2011, in Criminal Case No. 2255/2009, before the JMFC Pune.
 State v. Safarmal T Chauwani, judgment dated 15 October 2008, in Criminal Case No. 330/2008, before the CJM Wardha.
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