The proposed Amendments have raised certain apprehensions. It has been mentioned that consultations with the Gram Sabha will take place before declaring any Scheduled Area as a National Park. However, provisions containing the requirement for monitoring of such consultations are missing, and this is liable to lead to severe gaps in accountability.
Critique of stricter penalty for offenses relating to tiger reserves
- The punishment for hunting in a tiger reserve or altering the boundaries of a tiger reserve has been increased to imprisonment of at least 7 years and also with fine of at least 5 lakh rupees up to 30 lakh rupees.
- Simply increasing punishment will not achieve the objective of curtailing wildlife crime, and in fact may actually deter courts from sentencing offenders given the harshness of punishment, which would lead to a fall in the already low rates of conviction, and defeat the objective of the amendment.
- The language of the proposed amendment, unlike the language of the current Act, singles out tiger reserves. This has sparked great dissatisfaction especially amongst lion conservationists, who argue that both the Indian tiger and the Asiatic lion have been listed in the category of endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- The Chief Wildlife Warden has been empowered to grant a permit to any person to conduct scientific research upon application being made and certain conditions being satisfied. Concerns have been raised that even petty offences like simple trespass and/or minor research/tourist permit condition violation would lead to a minimum imprisonment of 3 years and fine, and that a student might be jailed for a minor breach.
- Researchers have argued that the amendment would lead to unjustified bureaucratic interference with research as decided by a Forest Official. They feel that the government should not be given such a high degree of control over the kind of ecological and conservation research that may be conducted in the country.