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Possession of “Indian Flap Shell Turtle” won't attract criminal proceedings; WildLife Protection Act

Possession of “Indian Flap Shell Turtle” does not attract criminal proceedings under Wild Life Protection Act: SC



DECEMBER 09, 2020

Learned counsel for the petitioner - Abhilash M.R

Learned counsel for the respondent - Nishe Rajen Shonker

The Hon’ble Supreme Court Justices ASHOK BHUSHAN and INDU MALHOTRA dismissed the appeal as they did not find any good ground to interfere with the order of the High Court by which the High Court has exercised its jurisdiction under Section 482 Cr.P.C.

The Kerala High Court has allowed Criminal M.C. No.2720 of 2017 filed by the respondent by quashing the proceedings thereof. The Deputy Range Forest Officer aggrieved by judgment of the High Court has come up in the appeal. The Hon’ble Supreme Court found sufficient ground to review the judgment and thus allowed this review petition.

Titty alias George Kurian, a Turtle, was seized by Rani Forest Flying Squared Range Staff from the respondent. The offence under Section 2, 9, 39A, 49A and 51 of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 was registered and a charge-sheet was submitted by the Forest Officer. After seizure of the Turtle, the same was sent for identification to Veterinary Surgeon. On inspection the Turtle was identified as “Indian Flap Shell”, the scientific name is “Lissemys Punctata”. The Court, after two days of the seizure directed the Turtle to be freed.

The respondent submitted before the High Court that the Indian Flap Shell Turtle which was seized was not found included in Schedule I of Part II of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, hence, such possession of the Turtle of that species will not invite the offences alleged against him. Therefore the respondent-accused filed an application and prayed for quashing the criminal proceedings before the High Court. The High Court being satisfied that the Turtle seized was not that species of Turtle which is included in Part II of Schedule I of the Act, 1972, allowed the application and quashed the criminal proceedings. Aggrieved by the judgment of the High Court, the Deputy Range Forest Officer filed the appeal.

The Learned counsel for the appellant contends that the High Court has committed error by allowing the application under Section 482 Cr.P.C stating that whether Indian Soft-shelled Turtle (Lissemys punctata punctata) and Indian Flap Shell Turtle (Lissemys puntata) are two different species or part of single species or a subspecies of the latter are matters of expert evidence ought to have been decided only under trial.

On the other hand the learned counsel for the respondent contends that the registration of offences has rightly been quashed by the High Court, since it is not possible to register any offence when the Turtle seized is not mentioned in the Schedule of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. He further submits that the report of the Veterinary Surgeon is only material to look into and the scientific name does not find place in the Schedule of the Act, 1972.

Item No.8, Schedule I Part II is to the following effect:

“8. Indian Soft-shelled Turtle (Lissemys punctata punctata).”(Para.11)

The High Court quashed the proceedings and allowed the application on the following grounds,

“4. On a perusal of Part II of Schedule I of the Act, it seems that Item No.8 is Indian Soft Shell Turtle (Lissemys Punctata Punctata). The certificate issued by the Senior Veterinary Surgeon to the Range Officer, Erumely in this case shows that the Turtle seized in this case is Indian Flap Shell Turtle (Lissemys Punctata). The above said Schedule does not contain the species named Indian Flap Shell Turtle. When the Turtle in question is not one belongs to Indian Soft Shell Turtle, the capture or its possession cannot be treated as an offence within the meaning of the Wild Life Protection Act. Matters being so, all further proceedings in C.C.No.706/2016 of the Judicial First Class Magistrate’s Court-II, Kanjirappally, based on OR No.5/2016 of the Erumely Forest Range as against the petitioner are liable to be quashed.”(Para.9)

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that, the Veterinary Surgeon has identified the Turtle as ‘Indian Flap Shell (Lissemy’s Punctata)’ whereas the Turtle which is included in Part II of Schedule I of the Act, 1972 is “Indian Soft-shelled Turtle (Lissemys punctata punctata).” The Turtle which has been seized is not that which is included in Part II of Schedule I. Since the Turtle seized is not included in Schedule I Part II and was already freed on the second day of its seizure, it was held that, the High Court did not commit any error in quashing the criminal proceedings registered for Wild Life offences.

Thus the appeal was dismissed.




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