The Elephants Preservation Act, 1879

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In British period the certain major steps were taken for conservation of animal and wildlife, the important in it is The Elephants Preservation Act, 1879 (Act No. 6 of 1879) enacted by the Madras Government. The Act was enacted with an aim and object of preservation of Wild Elephants. The Act extents to the territories now respectively administered by the State government of Uttar Pradesh; the Madhya Pradesh and the Chief Commissioners of Coorg; and the State Governments may extend it to any other local area which immediately before the 1st of November, 1956, was not comprised in a Part B State by notification in the official Gazette.

Wild lives are important so far as it is necessary for science of human cycle is concerned and related to biological conservation. Considering environmental degradation and its effect on living beings it is required for the then government and law making agency to cover the problem of wild lives protection including protection of Elephants. For conservation of the Elephants in India many efforts are being continuously taken and the first one legal effort was in 1873 with the enactment of The Madras Wild Elephant Preservation Act, 1873. However, such earlier enactments were quite liberal regarding capturing of elephants. Moreover, these enactments were also permitting the killing of the Elephants for protecting crop and public property, which results in decreasing number of Elephants in Country. As such Central legislative authority in British era enacted many statutes including The Elephants Preservation Act 1879.

The Act provides under Section 3 of it, for prohibition of killing and capture of wild elephant. However, certain exceptional circumstances are also there, in which one can break this rule, which include self defense and defense of others, etc. The Section 7 of the Act provides for penalty for contravening Section 3, i.e. the fine for killing, injuring or capturing or even attempts thereof. Such fees could be recovered as per Section 10 of the Act as it was arrears of land revenue.

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The Act under Section 5 of the Act gives authority to persons intending to kill and capture wild elephants by providing license to them. The said license could be granted by authorities including Collector or Deputy Commissioner of concerned Districts subject to Rules as may for the time being in force under said Act. In the State of Assam said provisions of Section 5 is also subject to approval of State Government as amended by Assam Act 14 of 1959 with effect from 14th May, 1959. Further Section 4 of the Act makes provision for rights of Government as to captured or tusked elephants which are killed by any person without license under this Act. Section 8 of the Act speaks for production of license on requisition of certain officers under the Act.

The Section 6 of the Act gives authority to the State Government to declare what should be named main road i.e. main public roads and canals within the meaning of this Act. Moreover, said Section empowers the State Government to make Rules consistent with this Act for regulating grant of licenses and its renewal under this Act and on relevant matters.

The most important provision relating to fast prosecution under this Act is Section 9 of the Act. The Said provision says that the prosecution under this Act shall commence within six months from commission of the offence. In subsequent years of enactment number of legislative measures has been taken resulting in protecting Elephant habitat and prohibiting ivory trade.

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In the 1992 the Indian Government launched the ‘Project Elephant’ for conservation of the Elephants.  Such various conservation measures resulted comprehensive legal supports to the Elephants and their number has been increasing and also certain reduction has been seen in deaths of human being caused by Elephants. However, it is always seems necessary to have effective measures in dealing with various problems concerning conservation of Elephants.