|Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 : A Historical Perspective
The Bombay Natural History Society which was founded in 1883, through its journal and other publications endeavoured to stimulate public interest in wildlife. Consequently Wild Birds and Game Act (Act XX of 1887) was enacted by Government of India. This was later on replaced by the Wild Birds and Wild Animals Protection Act (Act VIII of 1912) which together with the Indian Forest Act (Act XIV of 1927) became the basis of preservation laws in the country.
In the pre-partition Punjab, which extended from Attuck (Pakistan) to Gurgaon (Haryana, India) a great concern was felt about the depleting wildlife. A society, Northern India Association for the Protection of Wildlife was formed and started working for wildlife preservation in the non-forest areas of Punjab. The Association ultimately succeeded in getting the Punjab Wild Birds and Wild Animals Protection Act passed from the Punjab Government in 1933. This act was exclusively for the non-forest areas and the Act VIII of 1912 was consequently repealed in Punjab. Punjab, therefore, became the premier state in India to have a state act and rules on wildlife preservation of its own. District Fauna Committees were formed in the state under the president ship of Deputy Commissioners and Game Wardens were appointed to enforce the game laws. Initially a batch of three Game Inspectors were appointed, one each at Lahore, Simla and Gurdaspur on experimental basis. The experiment proved successful and consequently 21 more Game Inspectors were appointed in September 1942. Thus there were 24 Game Inspectors in 29 districts of the then Punjab State. The Game Wardens were also made Government servants in April 1943 and a full fledged Game Preservation Department was created with the Game Warden Punjab as the State executive which was first made part of the Agricultural Department. In 1951, it however was placed directly under the Secretary to Government, Department of Agriculture. In 1957 it was attached with the Forest Department and in 1958 its name was changed to Wildlife Preservation Department which gained a separate identity and a separate cadre in Punjab.
On merging of Pepsu with Punjab in 1956, an anomalous situation arose since the Punjab areas were governed by the Punjab Wild Birds and Wild Animals Protection Act, 1933, whereas, the erstwhile Pepsu areas were governed by the Preservation of the Fauna of Patiala Act, 1939. To attain unity of action in both the areas of the state a unified Punjab Wildlife Preservation Act, 1959 was passed and enforced in place of the previous two acts.
To push up further and safeguard the cause of wildlife conservation in India, the Indian Board for Wildlife was constituted in 1952. The Government of India set up a Wildlife Expert Committee to suggest measures for improving the wildlife management, preservation and conservation in India who in its report suggested the formation of a Wildlife Protection Act for whole of India, which the government finally enacted in Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.