SC Dismisses Appeal In the case of Wildlife Offences of a Captured Turtle

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In the case of Titty Alias George Kurian V. The Deputy Range Forest Officer, the Deputy Range Forest Officer aggrieved by the decision of Kerala High Court filed an appeal before the Supreme Court. In which, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the judgment of Kerala High Court.

Brief facts of the case

A Turtle was seized by Rani Forest Flying Squared Range Staff. The case was registered u/s 2, 9 (deals with the prohibition for hunting), 39A, 49A & 51 (penalties) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. The Turtle was sent for identification to a veterinary surgeon. After inspection, the Turtle was identified as “Indian Flap Shell”.

The Court ordered the discharge of the Turtle. The Accused (respondent) filed an application before the Kerala High Court that Indian Flap Shell Turtle which had been seized was not covered in schedule I of part II of the Act. Therefore, the said Turtle of that species would not cause the alleged offence against the accused.

The High Court after being satisfied with the contention made by the respondent allowed the application and quashed the criminal proceedings. Aggrieved by the judgment of Kerala High Court the Deputy Range Forest Officer filed an appeal before the Supreme Court

Arguments before the Court

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Counsel for the appellant argued that Indian Soft-shelled Turtle & Indian Flap Shell Turtle are two different species or subspecies of the latter, are the cases of expert evidence, and shall be decided only under trial and the High Court had committed error in allowing the application u/s 482 Cr. P.C.

Counsel for the respondent supported the direction of the HC and contended that when the Turtle was seized, it was not mentioned in the schedule of the Act. There was no instance for registration of any offence. The registration of the offences had rightly been quashed by the HC without any interference. He also argued that the scientific name which was given by that Surgeon does not find any place in the schedule of the Act, 1972.

Observation of the Court

As per the letter given by the Surgeon, it was observed that the Turtle had been identified as “Indian Flap Shell” since the Turtle which is included in Part II of Schedule I of the Act, 1972 is “Indian Soft-shelled Turtle.” While it was included in Part II of the schedule I of the Act, but, the Turtle which had been seized was not that which was included in Part II of Schedule I.  

The decision of the court

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The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the judgment of the High Court by stating that it did not commit any error in quashing the criminal proceedings registered for the wild life offences. 

Click here to read the judgment.


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