Elephant tusk is property of the Government under Section 39(1)(c) of Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of Dipak Misra, CJ and A.M. Khanwilkar and Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, JJ. sat to decide an appeal filed by the Wild Life Warden. The Hon’ble Bench held that elephant tusk is a Government property and declaration to that effect is to be found under Section 39(1)(c) of Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972.

It was alleged against the respondent that he had unauthorizedly collected and stored elephant tusks and unlicensed gun and other accessories. Consequently, criminal proceedings were initiated against him under Kerala Forest Act, 1961. However, the respondent was acquitted in the case. Assistant Wild Life Warden ordered confiscation of the above-mentioned items along with the jeep of the respondent. The order was appealed against by the respondent and the matter finally reached  Kerala High Court, wherein the learned Single Judge held that elephant tusk was not a forest produce as it was not mentioned as such in the Act of 1961. Feeling aggrieved the Wild Life Warden approached the Apex Court.

The Supreme Court limited its decision on the issue as to whether elephant tusk is the property of the Government. The Hon’ble Bench referred to Section 39(1)(c) of the Wild Life Act 1972 which inter alia declares that any article related to an animal hunted in a sanctuary or a National park, is a property of the Central Government. In accordance with the stated provision, the Court held that there was not an iota of doubt that elephant tusk is the property of the Government. Having concluded thus, the Court found it immaterial to decide whether elephant tusk is a forest produce under the Act of 1961. [Wild Life Warden v.  Komarrikal Elias, Civil Appeal No. 4952 of  2008, dated 08-05-2018]

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