Specific Wildlife Act charges must for seizure: SC

New Delhi: A vehicle used for smuggling ivory, not termed a forest produce under the Kerala Forest Act, cannot be seized under it, unless a specific case under the Wildlife (Protection) Act too has been lodged, the Supreme Court has ruled.

A bench of justices P Sathasivam and J Chelameshwar gave the ruling, dismissing a Kerala government`s appeal in a case of alleged smuggling of wild elephants` ivories, while the authorities had seized a car used for transporting it under the Kerala Forest Act, 1961.

The appeal was against two concurrent judgements of the Thrissur district judge and the state high court, both asking the government to return the vehicle, allegedly used for smuggling ivories. The vehicle, belonging to one P V Mathews, had been seized on December 20, 1996 under Section 2(f) of the Kerala Forest Act State Act.

"As provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 take care of wild animals skins, tusks, horns, bones, honey, wax and other parts or produce of animals, in the absence of specific charge under the said Act, the authorised officer was not justified in ordering confiscation of the vehicle," the bench said.

"We reiterate that the definition of ?forest produce? in Section 2 (f) (of the Kerala Forest Act) does not include any part of living or dead wild animals which is being taken care of by the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.

"Inasmuch as seizure under Section 52 of the Act has not taken place and no forest offence in respect of `forest produce` is shown to have been committed or established in the case, there is absolutely no justification for the seizure and the order of confiscation of the aforesaid car is beyond the jurisdiction of the authorised officer," said Justice Sathasivam, writing the judgement said for the bench.