GUWAHATI, July 23 - Two days after State Forest and Environment Minister Pramila Rani Brahma stated that the State Government was exploring the idea to hand over the cases of rhino poaching to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), members of the legal fraternity have claimed that the nature of the offences in question do not fall under the ambit of the NIA Act, 2008, and, hence, the cases cannot be investigated by the country�s premier investigation agency.
A section of members of the judiciary has also questioned the prudence of the bureaucrats who, they feel, could have fed the Minister with �the right piece of legal advice before making a statement on the floor of the State Assembly�.
Brahma on Thursday expressed concern over the recurring incidents of rhino poaching while informing that 239 rhinos have been poached in the State since 2001. The highest cases of poaching were reported in 2013 with 41 fatalities.
Secretary general of Gauhati High Court Bar Association Nabajyoti Dutta said, �The Minister should have ideally done some home work before jumping the gun and making such a statement on the floor of the House. Cases like rhino poaching do not fall under the scheduled offences of the NIA Act and hence the NIA cannot be asked to probe into such cases.
�A wrong message should not be relayed from the floor of the House which is why public representatives should be cautious before making sensitive comments,� Dutta said.
The NIA Act came into being on December 31, 2008 to investigate and prosecute offences affecting the sovereignty, security and integrity of India and Section 6 of the said Act talks about investigation of scheduled offences under different Acts, including the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, the Unlawful (Activities) Prevention Act, 1957, the Anti Hijacking Act, 1982 and various sections of the Indian Penal Code related to fake currency and sedition.
Criminal lawyer Bijon Kumar Mahajan, who is also a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, too expressed similar sentiments on the issue. He said, �The intention of the Forest Minister in seeking an NIA probe into the rhino poaching cases is definitely a laudable one. But, the law, as mentioned in the NIA Act, does not permit the same.
�Section 6 of the NIA Act clearly states that the agency can only probe the scheduled offences and as the Wildlife Protection Act does not fall in the schedule, seeking an NIA probe into the forest offences would not bear any fruit,� Mahajan said, quoting the law books.
�It would be advisable to stick to an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation encompassing all possible angles,� Mahajan added.