Friday, October 22, 2010

Sansar Chand V/S State of Rajasthan Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No.5599 of 2009 (20 OCTOBER, 2010)

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. _2024____OF 2010
[Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No.5599 of 2009]

Sansar Chand ... Appellant
State of Rajasthan ... Respondent


Markandey Katju, J.

1. Leave granted.
2. Shera was the symbol of the recent Commonwealth Games,but ironically Shera has been almost exterminated in our country.
The Sher Khan of Rudyard Kipling's `Jungle Book', which once
abounded in India, is rarely to be seen today.
3. This case reveals how avaricious and rapacious persons have
by organized crime destroyed large parts of the wild life of India
and brought many animals e.g. tigers, leopards, bison, etc. almost
to the brink of extinction, thereby seriously jeopardizing and
destroying the ecological chain and ecological balance in our

4. The appellant herein has been convicted under the Wildlife

(Protection) Act, 1972 by all the three courts below and now he is

in appeal before us.

5. Before dealing with the facts of this case, we would like to

comment upon the background. India, at one time, had one of the

richest and most varied fauna in the world. However, over the last

several decades there has been rapid decline of India's wild

animals and birds which is a cause of grave concern. Some wild

animals and birds have already become extinct e.g. the cheetah and

others are on the brink of extinction. Areas which were once

teeming with wild life have become devoid of it, and many

sanctuaries and parks are empty or almost empty of animals &

birds. Thus, the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan and the Panna

Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh today have no tigers.

6. One of the main causes for this depredation of the wild life is

organized poaching which yields enormous profits by exports to

China and other countries.

7. Article 48A of the Constitution states as follows :

"48A. Protection and improvement of environment and
safeguarding of forest and wild life. - The State shall endeavour
to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the
forests and wild life of the country".

8. Article 51A (g) of the Constitution states that it is the duty of

every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural

environment including the wild life.

9. The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 was enacted for this

constitutional purpose. Chapter III of the said Act prohibits

hunting of wild animals except in certain limited circumstances.

Chapter IV enables the State Government to declare any area as a

sanctuary or national park, and destruction or removal of animals

from those areas is prohibited except under very limited

circumstances. Chapter V & VA prohibits trade or commerce of

wild animals, animal articles or trophies. Chapter VI makes

violation of the provisions of the Act a criminal offence. By the

Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Act, 2002 the punishment has

been increased vide Section 51 as amended, and the property

derived from illegal hunting and trade is liable to forfeiture vide

Chapter VIA.

10. Before dealing with the facts of this case, we may consider

why preservation of wild life is important for human society.

11. Preservation of wild life is important for maintaining the

ecological balance in the environment and sustaining the

ecological chain. It must be understood that there is inter-linking

in nature. To give an example, snakes eat frogs, frogs eat insects

and insects eat other insects and vegetation. If we kill all the

snakes, the result will be that number of frogs will increase and

this will result in the frogs eating more of the insects and when

more insects are eaten, then the insects which are the prey of other

insects will increase in number to a disproportionate extent, or the

vegetation will increase to a disproportionate extent. This will

upset the delicate ecological balance in nature. If we kill the frogs

the insects will increase and this will require more insecticides.

Use of much insecticide may create health problems. To give

another example, destruction of dholes (wild dogs) in Bhutan was

intended to protect livestock, but this led to greater number of wild

boar and to resultant crop devastation causing several cases of

abandonment by humans of agricultural fields. Destruction of

carnivorous animals will result in increase of herbivorous animals,

and this can result in serious loss of agricultural crops and other


12. It must be realized that our scientific understanding of nature,

and in particular of the ecological chain and the linkages therein is

still very primitive, incomplete and fragmentary. Hence, it is all

the more important today that we preserve the ecological balance

because disturbing it may cause serious repercussions of which we

may have no idea today.

13. As already stated above, the wild life in India has already

been considerably destroyed. At one time there were hundreds of

thousands of tigers, leopards and other wild animals, but today

there are only about 1400 tigers left, according to the Wildlife


14. Until recently habitat loss was thought to be the largest threat

to the future of tigers, leopards etc. However, it has now been

established that illegal trade and commerce in skins and other body

parts of tigers, leopards etc. has done even much greater

decimation. Poaching of tigers for traditional Chinese medicine

industry has been going on in India for several decades. Tigers

and leopards are poached for their skins, bones and other

constituent parts as these fetch high prices in countries such as

China, where they are valued as symbols of power

(aphrodisiacs) and ingredients of dubious traditional medicines.

This illegal trade is organized and widespread and is in the hands

of ruthless sophisticated operators, some of whom have top level

patronage. The actual poachers are paid only a pittance, while

huge profits are made by the leaders of the organized gangs who

have international connection in foreign countries. Poaching of

wild life is an organized international illegal activity which

generates massive amount of money for the criminals.

15. Interpol says that trade in illegal wild life products is worth

about US$ 20 billion a year, and India is now a major source

market for this trade. Most of the demand for wildlife products

comes from outside the country. While at one time there were

hundreds of thousands of tigers in India, today according to the

survey made by the Wildlife Institute of India (an autonomous

body under the Ministry of Environment and Forests), there were

only 1411 tigers left in India in 2008. There are no reliable

estimates of leopards as no proper census has been carried out, but

the rough estimates show that the leopard too is a critically

endangered species.

16. There is virtually no market for the skins or bones of tigers

and leopards within India. The evidence available points out that

tigers and leopards, poached in the Indian wilderness, are then

smuggled across the border to meet the demand for their products

in neighbouring countries such as China. When dealing with tiger

and leopard poachers and traders, it is therefore important to bear

in mind that one is dealing with trans-national organized crime.

The accused in these cases represents a link in a larger criminal

network that stretches across borders. This network starts with a

poacher who in most cases is a poor tribal and a skilled hunter.

Poachers kill tigers and leopards so as to supply the orders placed

by a trader in a larger city centre such as Delhi. These traders are

very wealthy and influential men. Once the goods reach the trader,

he then arranges for them to be smuggled across the border to his

counterpart in another country and so on till it reaches the end

consumer. It is impossible for such a network to sustain itself

without large profits and intelligent management.

17. Under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, trading in tiger,

leopard and other animal skins and parts is a serious offence.

Apart from that, India is a signatory to both the UN Convention on

International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the UN

Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (CTOC).

However, despite these National and International laws many

species of wildlife e.g. tigers, leopards, bison etc. are under threat

of extinction, mainly due to the poaching organized by

international criminal traders and destruction of the habitats.

18. Sansar Chand, the appellant before us has a long history of

such criminal activities, starting with a 1974 arrest for 680 skins

including tigers, leopards and others. In the subsequent years the

appellant and his gang has established a complex, interlinking

smuggling network to satisfy the demand for tiger and leopard

parts and skins outside India's borders, particularly to China. It is

alleged that the appellant and his gang are accused in 57 wildlife

cases between 1974 and 2005.

19. Sansar Chand the appellant herein has a long history of

involvement with wildlife crime. A brief account of the same is

given below:

(i) In a seizure dated 11.09.1974 having criminal case No.
20/3 Sansar was held guilty by the Court of Shri H.P. Sharma
ACMM, Delhi on 1.8.1981 and sentenced on 3.8.1981 to
rigorous imprisonment for one year and six months. This
Court vide it's judgment dated 13.5.1994 ordered the release
of Sansar Chand on the ground that he was a juvenile on the
date of the offence and his sentence be considered to have

(ii) In another seizure dated 20.11.1974 he was held guilty
and sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 20,000/-.

(iii) The third conviction of Sansar Chand was by the
Special Railways Court vide it's order dated 20.4.2004 which

was pleased to award Sansar Chand rigorous imprisonment
for 5 years. The said judgment has been subsequently
affirmed by the Sessions Court on 19.10.2006 and the High
Court of Rajasthan vide it's order dated 10.12.2008 against
which Sansar Chand has preferred this special leave petition.

(iv) In addition to the above there are other cases pending
against the appellant which provide details of his pending
cases in various Courts and which were admitted by him in
his statement under Section 313 Cr.P.C. and which are Ex. P-
46 and P-47. These exhibits show the extent of involvement
of Sansar Chand in wildlife crime.

(v) In order to highlight the extent of the organized nature
of wildlife crimes being committed by the appellant, it is
important to mention here that it is not just Sansar Chand, but
other members of his family and associations who are also
involved in the illegal trade in wildlife. It is alleged that the
appellant's younger brother Narayan Chand is mentioned in
FIR No. 82/2005, Kamla Market Police Station, New Delhi,
involving the seizure of, inter alia, 2 tiger skins, 38 leopard
skins and 1 snow leopard skin and has been named as an
accused in the complaint filed under Section 55 of the Wild

Life (Protection) Act, 1972 in this case. Narayan Chand is
also an accused in Court Case No. 1145/2009 being tried
before the Additional Chief Judicial Magaistrate, Haldwani,
arising from Preliminary Offence Report No.
13/Fatehpur/2008-2009, involving the seizure of 1 tiger skin
and a tiger skeleton. Sansar Chand's wife Rani and son
Akash are accused in the case arising from FIR No.
362/2004, Manak Chowk Police Station, Jaipur, involving
the seizure of leopard paws and claws. CBI in the year 2005
invoked MCOCA against Sansar Chand and his family
members and associates which case is pending trial in a Delhi

20. The present case is only one of the cases in which the

appellant has been accused. The facts of the case have been set out

in detail in the judgment of the High Court and hence we are not

repeating the same here. Briefly stated, on January 5, 2003 the

police arrested one Balwan who was traveling in a train with a

carton containing leopard's skin. During investigation the said

Balwan on January 7, 2003 made a disclosure statement to the

SHO, GRP Bhilwara that the two leopard skins were to be handed

over to Sansar Chand at Sadar Bazar, Delhi. The appellant was

charge sheeted and after trial he was convicted by the Additional

Chief Judicial Magistrate (Railways), Ajmer, Rajasthan by his

judgment dated 29.4.2004. The appellant filed an appeal which

was dismissed by the Special Judge, SC/ST (Prevention of

Atrocities) Cases, Ajmer vide his judgment dated 19.8.2006.

Thereafter the appellant filed a Revision Petition, which was

dismissed by the Rajasthan High Court by the impugned judgment

dated 10.12.2008. Hence, this appeal.

21. Thus, all the courts below have found the appellant guilty of

the offences charged.

22. Learned counsel for the appellant submitted that the

prosecution case is solely based on the extra judicial confession

made by co-accused Balwan vide Ex.P-33. We do not agree.

Apart from the extra judicial confession of Balwan there is a lot of

other corroborative material on record which establishes the

appellant's guilt.

23. It must be mentioned that persons like the appellant are the

head of a gang of criminals who do illegal trade in wildlife. They

themselves do not do poaching, but they hire persons to do the

actual work of poaching. Thus a person like the appellant herein

remains behind the scene, and for this reasons it is not always

possible to get direct evidence against him.

24. In the courts below the prosecution filed a list of pending

cases against Sansar Chand, in some of which he has been found

guilty and punished. The appellant has been prosecuted by the

Wildlife Department in various courts as mentioned in the letter of

the Deputy Inspector General of Police, CBI, New Delhi to the

Inspector General of Police, Jaipur dated October 20, 2004.

25. Ex.P-33 which contains the confession of the appellant, was

written by PW-11 Arvind Kumar on the instructions given by the

accused Balwan while in custody. Prior to Ex.P-33, Balwan has

also disclosed the name of the appellant vide Ex.P-6 on January 6,


26. In our opinion, Ex.P-33 supported by the evidence of Arvind

PW 11 and Ex.P-6 cannot be treated to be concocted documents

which cannot be relied upon. As per the disclosure statement of

Balwan the other co-accused persons were also arrested and

articles used for killing and removing skins from the bodies of

leopards were also recovered.

27. The accused Balwan was released on bail on 18.01.2003, and

thereafter he sent the written confession Exh.P-33 on 23.01.2003

during judicial custody at Central Jail, Ajmer. In our opinion it

cannot be held that the accused Balwan was under any pressure of

the police. The said letter Ex.P-33 dictated by Balwan to Arvind

Kumar was directly sent from the Central Jail, Ajmer to the Chief

Judicial Magistrate's Court, Ajmer. We are of the opinion that the

letter P-33 was not fabricated or procured by pressure. The

accused Balwan has clearly stated in Exh.P-33that he was paid

Rs.5000/- and Rs.10000/- by the appellant. The appellant has

several houses in Delhi, purchased in his name and in the name of

his wife. It appears that these houses were purchased with the help

of gains made out of his illegal activities stated above.

28. Pw-11 Arvind Kumar has stated in his deposition before the

Court that he wrote the letter Ex.P-33 at the instance of the accused

Balwan. The thumb impression of the accused Balwan is on that


29. At the instance of the appellant one Bhua Gameti was

questioned who stated that the panther's skin had been taken by

various persons e.g. Khima, Nawa, Kheta Ram, Mohan and Chuna,

who were also arrested. At their pointing out the equipment used

for hunting the leopard and poaching it were seized. Panther's

nails were also recovered from accused Bhura and the guns,

cartridges, and knives for removing the skins of panthers were

recovered from the accused.

30. There is a large amount of oral and documentary evidence on

record which has been discussed in great detail by the learned

Magistrate and the learned Special Judge and hence we are not

repeating the same here. Thus the appellant has rightly been held

guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

31. As already stated above, in such cases it is not easy to get

direct evidence, particularly against the leader of the gang (like the

appellant herein).

32. The appellant, Sansar Chand has been doing this illegal trade

for more than 30 years. He is habitual of doing this illegal

business of trade in skins and parts of panthers and tigers. He has,

as far back as in 1974, committed his first crime when he was

barely 16 years of age and the conviction was upheld by the

Supreme Court in Criminal Case No. 15 of 2001. A large number

of cases are pending against him in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and

Rajasthan. Taking all these materials into account there is no

doubt that the appellant is guilty of the offence charged.

33. There is no absolute rule that an extra judicial confession can

never be the basis of a conviction, although ordinarily an extra

judicial confession should be corroborated by some other material

vide Thimma vs. The State of Mysore - AIR 1971 SC 1871,

Mulk Raj vs. The State of U.P. - AIR 1959 SC 902, Sivakumar

vs. State by Inspector of Police - AIR 206 SC 563 (para 41 &

42), Shiva Karam Payaswami Tewar vs. State of Maharashtra

- AIR 2009 SC 1692, Mohd. Azad vs. State of West Bengal -

AIR 2009 SC 1307. In the present case, the extra judicial

confession by Balwan has been referred to in the judgments of the

learned Magistrate and the Special Judge, and it has been

corroborated by the other material on record. We are satisfied that

the confession was voluntary and was not the result of inducement,

threat or promise as contemplated by Section 24 of the Evidence


34. The learned Magistrate and the Special Judge have discussed

in great detail the prosecution evidence, oral as well as

documentary and have found the appellant guilty. The High Court

has affirmed that verdict and we see no reason to take a different

view. The appeal, therefore, stands dismissed.

35. Before we part with this case, we would like to request the

Central and State Governments and their agencies to make all

efforts to preserve the wild life of the country and take stringent

actions against those who are violating the provisions of the

Wildlife (Protection) Act, as this is necessary for maintaining the

ecological balance in our country.


20 OCTOBER, 2010

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