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IFAW-WTI Holds Legal Assistance Review Meetings held in Kanha, Pench Tiger Reserve

Kanha & Pench TRs, December 6, 2016: Wildlife offences are complex phenomena often resulting from an interplay of cultural, economic, social and environmental factors. At their centre of course are the wild species, sometimes critically endangered species, which have been affected.

As wildlife and forest offences are fundamentally distinct from other crimes, a coordinated and multisectoral approach is essential in order to evolve an effective response to them. In pursuance of such a multi-pronged approach, IFAW-WTI has, on a monthly basis since 2013, been providing legal assistance to Pench and Kanha Tiger Reserves (TRs). IFAW-WTI’s Legal Assistance Team has helped the relevant authorities file wildlife and forest related cases in a comprehensive manner using the provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, and provided legal advice on prior cases pending in the local trial courts.

Last month, two separate Legal Assistance Review Meetings were held at Kanha and Pench TRs on November 21 and 22 respectively. In attendance were Sanjay Shukla, Field Director, Kanha TR (at the Kanha review meeting); Subhoranjan Sen, Field Director, Pench TR (at the Pench review meeting); Aniruddha Mookerjee, Advisor, IFAW-WTI; Jose Louise, Head, Law & Enforcement, IFAW-WTI; Advocate Abhimanyu Mann, IFAW-WTI; Advocate Yash Kumar Soni; and other concerned officers from their respective TRs.

A number of pressing issues were discussed in the meetings so that wildlife crime cases could be prioritised: the consultant advocate would henceforth deal with these cases on a monthly basis; a committee with a group of five to six forest department officers would be set up to handle efficient documentation of new cases in times of urgency; proper follow-up of cases would be ensured etc.

Moot Court/Mock Trial exercises were also conducted for cases in which judgments had already been pronounced, so that shortcomings could be identified and would not be repeated in future. A list of absconding accused and those who had jumped bail, and the appropriate legal action to be taken against them, was also discussed.

Over the last six months, IFAW-WTI has provided legal assistance in as many as 52 cases in Kanha and 29 cases in Pench. Though a large number of remand cases have come in, an increase in cases that are at the evidence stage would be welcome so that the provided legal assistance can be even more fruitful. 
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