By Bosky Khanna
Shortage of trained investigators and forensic science experts has been hampering probe into crimes against wildlife and violation of environmental laws in Karnataka.
While most of the practising lawyers are reportedly not well-versed in the special laws governing wildlife, number of students taking up courses in wildlife and environment laws is also less.
Former additional director general of police, CID forest cell, K S N Chikkerur said that conviction rate in wildlife crime cases is just eight to 10 per cent.
For, prosecutors, investigating officers and magistrates do not understand that the onus of proof is on the accused. Wildlife crimes are special types of crimes requiring expertise which the forest and police officials lack.
Chief Wildlife Warden Vinay Lutra said: “While there are many to handle general laws, there is a shortage of experts in wildlife laws and forensics. Conviction is less because of lack of evidence and witnesses. We need more trained people, especially youth, who can deal with such cases.”
According to National Law School India University (NLSIU), Bangalore, number of students taking up wildlife and forensic courses are less, compared to other specialisations.
Most students prefer property and human resources. However, civil servants such as IAS, IPS, IFS and the officers of pollution control boards pursue one-year diploma courses in these streams.
“Every year we see around ten officials, and the number is gradually increasing,” said Sairam Bhat, Associate Professor, NLSIU.
He observed that though the number of takers for these courses is increasing of late, it is still inadequate when compared to number of students for other courses. The reason for the poor student strength is limited job opportunities, he said.
Wildlife advocate and forester B R Deepak also agreed that there is a need for qualified trainers.
Additional Chief Secretary, the department of forests, Madan Gopal said: “Awareness on environmental laws will facilitate proper protection and better conservation.”
However, Managing Trustee of Wildlife First, Praveen Bhargav said that public prosecutors with special interest and skills are identified for effective prosecution of serious wildlife offences.