Czechs convicted

Published: Wednesday 15 October 2008

Schedule 2 beetle among the sa (Credit: WEST BENGAL FOREST DEPARTMENT<)an indian court has convicted two Czech nationals arrested for illegally collecting insects in Singalila National Park, West Bengal. On September 10, the chief judicial magistrate in Darjeeling sentenced Emil Kucera to three years in jail and fined him Rs 50,000. Entomologist Petr Svacha was fined Rs 20,000.

The Czechs were arrested in June in Darjeeling. This is the quickest wildlife trial, says Wildlife Trust of India (wti), an ngo that aided the prosecution. "The court was under pressure to hear and dispose of this case quickly since the accused are foreigners," says Sourabh Sharma, the wti lawyer. So very few of the confiscated insects were identified in time. Experts from the Zoological Survey of India identified one of the samples to be a Schedule 2 beetle.

The court held the Czechs guilty of violating Section 3 of the Biodiversity Act, which prohibits non-citizens from collecting biological resources in India without approval from the National Biodiversity Authority (nba). Approval from nba is necessary even if a person gets the permission under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The Czechs had also violated several sections under the act that prohibit hunting, restrict entry into protected areas and destruction of material within a sanctuary.

"It is not possible that they were unaware of India's laws since Kucera had come to India a number of times earlier," says Sharma.

Some scientists had opposed the Czechs' arrest, saying they had been collecting insects for scientific research and had not known that permits were required to enter the national park.

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