We, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, hereby petition you, OUR PRESIDENT, to guarantee us the RIGHT to perform unhindered our CONSTITUTIONALLY ENJOINED FUNDAMENTAL DUTIES embodied in section 51A of our CONSTITUTION, namely, (g) to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures; (h) to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.
We, the undersigned and many other offline citizens have actively undertaken the abovementioned duties for decades, documenting our bio-diversity, discovering new life forms, recording life histories, locating lost creatures, drawing attention to conservation requirements on the basis of scientific observations and publishing our findings in hundreds of papers in reputed national and international scientific journals. All this, without any funding from public resources.
Today, newspaper reports indicate that we are about to become criminals if proposed amendments to the Wildlife Protection Act (1972) are signed into legislation by you in the form of the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill 2013.
We therefore request you to have the proposed amendments modified so that the need for the amendment is met without unwittingly outlawing the CONSTITUTIONALLY ENJOINED FUNDAMENTAL DUTIES mentioned above.
Briefly, this would be adequately met if the definition of wild animals to be included under the Act were to not include as wide a definition as proposed in changes to and in sections 36 and 37 of the existing Act. In particular, insects, fish, marine crustaceans and similar groups need to be left out or only relevant species rather than groups included. For example, leaving in fish and marine crustaceans would outlaw the fishing industry. Similarly, in order to document life histories of insects undergoing metamorphosis, one needs to confine the insect in question in a breeding box. The breeding box would become a trap under the proposed changes (section 2A) to the Act, while discovering it outside one’s house would subject it to provisions of Section 26C, making the documentation of the life history of an insect discovered even in one’s garden a punishable offence.
This need not be made illegal, since to do so would not serve any useful purpose and would infringe the CONSTITUTIONALLY ENJOINED DUTY to develop the scientific temper, which presupposes empirical observations in an isolated environment, as well as the extremely urgent need to document our biodiversity at a time when the burgeoning human population threatens many life forms with extinction. Since the discovery of life histories and other natural phenomena is usually unpremeditated and by amateurs, it is impractical to expect them to seek formal permission to undertake such work, especially since the early stages of perhaps 85% of Indian insects is undocumented and one does not know what one is breeding until the adult emerges. By the time the request for permission is processed, the creature will have completed its metamorphosis.
Therefore, let the concerned Departments of Government have complete jurisdiction over Protected Areas, but surely it would be counter-productive and contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution to extend such jurisdiction outside Protected Areas. This especially, when cattle owners can legitimately graze their cattle in such areas, and destroy many more insect larvae and adults as well as eggs of amphibians, reptiles, birds, threatened plants, etc than any of the undersigned would dream of doing. Therefore, we feel that the present Amendments and even existing laws unjustly discriminate against the development of the scientific temper and the documentation of our bio-diversity by private citizens and favour the indiscriminate exploitation of public resources by any persons who choose to graze their cattle on public and private lands or lop fodder and firewood from such places. To make the platform level, the Chief Wildlife Warden should be empowered to issue a permit for each head of cattle and be familiar with details of its daily diet, to ascertain that no protected plant or animal is destroyed by being fed to the cattle (which would conceivably be a commercial use for the plant, since the milk and meat is sold), as is expected of those wishing to undertake scientific research on the same resources in pursuit of our CONSTITUTIONALLY ENJOINED DUTIES.
Alternatively, such restrictions may be removed, so that citizens can enjoy the same rights as the laws bestow upon cattle vis-à-vis our environment and freely develop the scientific temper and document our bio-diversity. This could be achieved by a proviso in the Amendements to the effect that, “notwithstanding anything herein stated, the bonafide non-commercial study of nature and biodiversity by citizens, where the object of study is outside a Protected Area, will not be subject to the provisions of this Act except in the case of species listed on the Schedules of the WPA 1972.”
Insects, incidentally, comprise the greater part of global bio-diversity and understanding their life histories and requirements is fundamental to the protection and improvement of the natural environment as enjoined upon us in Section 51A(g) above.
Thanking you for your kind consideration and hoping that you will ensure that we may perform our duties unhindered,
We remain, Sir,
Law abiding citizens of India. Jai Hind!
- Joint Director, Rajya Sabha Secretariat
Shri V.S.P. Singh
- Hon'ble President of India
Shri Pranab Mukherjee
Guarantee Indian citizens our constitutional rights and duties
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