The Supreme Court on November 22 upheld the Allahabad High Court's order on the Centre’s amnesty scheme, which provided immunity from prosecution upon declaration of acquisition or possession of exotic wildlife species between June and December this year.
Upholding the Allahabad High Court judgment, the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde dismissed an appeal filed by Dinesh Chandra, seeking investigation and prosecution for acquisition, possession, and trade of exotic wildlife species.
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The Centre’s amnesty scheme is aimed at developing an inventory of exotic live species within India, regulating their import and maintaining stock of imported exotic live species, to maintain statutory records of stock, change in stock due to any death, transfer within India, and acquisition of further stock, The Indian Express reported.
Earlier, the Allahabad High Court had said it would not be open to Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) or any other agency to probe or prosecute anyone making declarations of acquisition or possession of exotic wildlife species during the six-month window.
"The Central Government, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, through Wildlife Division has already introduced the 'voluntary disclosure scheme' in the wider public interest by announcing immunity for a limited window of six months to promote and invite voluntary disclosure declaration from all concerned. The scheme so introduced by the Central Government shall be promoted by all the departments in the wider public interest," The Indian Express quoted the Allahabad High Court order.
"In this period of six months, whosoever declares the stock of exotic species and thereby submits himself to registration and further requirements of the scheme, shall have immunity from any inquiry into the source of licit acquisition or possession of the voluntarily declared stock of exotic species," the Allahabad High Court added.
Meanwhile, in a separate case, the Rajasthan High Court too held that anyone seeking to avail this scheme by making a voluntary declaration of such exotic live species in his/her domestic possession and subjecting himself/herself to future regulatory requirements shall be entitled to the immunity promised under the scheme.
However, the high court bench noted that declarant should not act on the basis of any apprehension neither under Customs Act, 1962, nor any other law.