Supreme Court asks Centre to arm and protect Forest Rangers against Poachers

Tanvi Sinha

On 8th January 2021, the Supreme Court rolled out concerns on the matter of the forest rangers’ safety as they combat armed poachers with little to no arms.

A three-judge bench of CJI SA Bobde, Justice AS Bopanna, and Justice V Ramasubramnian asked the centre to come up with some kind of policy that would licence arms for the forest officials.

This case came to the Top Court as an interlocutory application against the criminal charges on some forest officers in Rajasthan that came up during the TN Godawaram Thirmpalad case.

The officers were represented by Senior Advocate Shyam Divan on the subject of action taken against them when they were combatting armed poachers.

The court admitted that they found it difficult to see how any forest official was supposed to protect the forests and rare animals from poachers when they remain unarmed. Adv. Divan submitted disturbing statistics saying that almost 31% of the violence against forest rangers exists in India alone.

The court also was made to understand that states like Assam do have armed forest officials and are hence better protected.

As per earlier reports, it has come to the knowledge that when a poacher had three guns, whilst they are “desi” guns, (referring to illegally manufactured guns made in the country) that could shoot up to 150 ft, the forest officers only had a single double-barrel officially made gun that could shoot only up to 50 ft.

If this wasn’t enough to put them at a disadvantage they were also bereft of even handcuffs with which they could arrest the poachers.

As a final note of relief to the applicants, the court stated it did not understand what legal ground there would to be to charge unarmed when doing their duty against armed criminals.

The court also was made aware that the poacher business was an international trade where pangolin skin would be sold to China due to some orthodox belief in the country relating to the material.