Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: Tirthankar Ghosh, J., reversed the order of the trial court (as confirmed by the first appellate court) whereby the petitioner was convicted and sentenced for committing an offence under Section 40(2) read with Section 51(1-A) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.

The petitioner was accused of unlawfully possessing various wildlife material including tiger skin, elephant tusks, baby rhino born and tiger nails. All this material was seized during the search conducted by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence. The petitioner was charged under provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act. At the conclusion of the trial, he was convicted and sentenced as mentioned above. His appeal against the order of the trial court was also dismissed by the appellate court. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioner filed the instant revision petition.

It may be noted, that during the investigation, the accused was summoned under Section 108 of the Customs Act, 1962, and his statement was recorded in response to enquiries which were made in presence of a senior intelligence officer.

While perusing the record and considering submissions made on behalf of the parties, the High Court noticed that the statement of the accused-petitioner recorded under Section 108 of the Customs Act was made the foundation of his conviction by the trial court. Relying on Noor Aga v. State of Punjab, (2008) 16 SCC 417 and State of Gujarat v. Anwar Osman Sumbhaniya, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 282, the High Court rejected the approach of the trial court and observed: “The statement under Section 108 of the Customs Act which has been made the foundation for conviction by the Ld. Courts below, firstly is a very weak piece of evidence, as no Court can rely upon a statement of the accused until and unless the same is corroborated by material particulars. Moreover, the said statement under Section 108 of the Customs Act were made before the DRI Authorities which can be used in a prosecution under the Customs Act and using the same as a foundation for an offence under the 1972 Act is against the settled principles of law. 

In such view of the matter, the High Court allowed the revision petition and acquitted him of the charges as aforementioned. [Quasim Ali v. Sajal Baran Das, 2019 SCC OnLine Cal 5130, decided on 23-12-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of Dipak Misra, CJ and A.M. Khanwilkar and Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, JJ. sat to decide an appeal filed by the Wild Life Warden. The Hon’ble Bench held that elephant tusk is a Government property and declaration to that effect is to be found under Section 39(1)(c) of Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972.

It was alleged against the respondent that he had unauthorizedly collected and stored elephant tusks and unlicensed gun and other accessories. Consequently, criminal proceedings were initiated against him under Kerala Forest Act, 1961. However, the respondent was acquitted in the case. Assistant Wild Life Warden ordered confiscation of the above-mentioned items along with the jeep of the respondent. The order was appealed against by the respondent and the matter finally reached  Kerala High Court, wherein the learned Single Judge held that elephant tusk was not a forest produce as it was not mentioned as such in the Act of 1961. Feeling aggrieved the Wild Life Warden approached the Apex Court.

The Supreme Court limited its decision on the issue as to whether elephant tusk is the property of the Government. The Hon’ble Bench referred to Section 39(1)(c) of the Wild Life Act 1972 which inter alia declares that any article related to an animal hunted in a sanctuary or a National park, is a property of the Central Government. In accordance with the stated provision, the Court held that there was not an iota of doubt that elephant tusk is the property of the Government. Having concluded thus, the Court found it immaterial to decide whether elephant tusk is a forest produce under the Act of 1961. [Wild Life Warden v.  Komarrikal Elias, Civil Appeal No. 4952 of  2008, dated 08-05-2018]