Indian Handicrafts Emporium v Union of India

Date of opinion

In this case the petitioner had challenged the constitutional validity of Amendment Act 44, 1991, to the Constitution of India, which prohibited trade in imported ivory. The appeals which arise out of a common judgment and order dated 20.3.1997 passed by a Division Bench of the Delhi High Court. The appellants are engaged in the business of manufacture and sale of articles relating to art and craft manufactured from ivory. The appellants imported ivory from African countries. They have manufactured certain articles out of the same. It is not in dispute that the said import had legally been made as there did not exist any restriction in that regard.
The learned senior counsel appearing for the appellants, urged that the impugned provisions of the Amendment Act violate Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India in as much as thereby the right of the appellant to trade in ivory has unjustly been prohibited. The learned counsel would submit that restrictions imposed by reason of the said Amendment Act being excessive, the same must be held to be confiscatory in nature. The Amending Act is also ultra vires Article 14 of the Constitution of India, being irrational and arbitrary. The learned counsel has drawn attention to the fact that the population of elephants has gone up in several countries, e.g., Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, and these countries have been permitted by Convention on International Trade in Endangered species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to deal in ivory subject of course to certain restrictions. Attention has further been drawn to the fact that ivory which was placed in Appendix-I of the CITES has now been placed in Appendix-II thereof. It was also submitted that ivory collected from dead animals should also be permitted to be dealt in.
The Court reasoned, that trade in imported ivory being dangerous to ecology has been regulated by imposing total prohibition by Wildlife (Protection) Amending Act of 1991. Such Amending Act indirectly seeks to protect Indian Elephant and to arrest their further depletion. Traders and non-traders constitute two different classes and the classification is founded on an intelligible difference clearly distinguishing one from the other. "A machinery must be so construed as to effectuate the liability imposed by the charging Section and to make the machinery workable."
Court judgement:
The Supreme Court held that the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1991 indirectly seeks to protect Indian elephant and to restrict its further depletion, and so, the appellant petition was dismissed. (Provided by: UNODC SHERLOC)

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