No clearance sale

Published: Tuesday 30 September 2003

The Supreme Court (sc) has ordered the Union government to seize all ivory stock -- in its carved as well as raw form -- from traders. In doing so, the apex court has put its seal on the Delhi High Court's (hc) 1997 judgement that had denied the traders permission to sell the ivory lying with them.

The sc further directed the authorities to place in museums idols and images of gods made of such ivory. According to estimates, currently there are about 20 tonnes of ivory stocks worth millions of dollars. Since 1991, the traders had been seeking approval to clear the stocks following a 1986 ban on the sale, import and export of ivory.

"The contention of the petitioners, who were dealers in wildlife products, was that by putting a blanket ban on the trade their fundamental right under article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution was being violated," revealed Ritwick Dutta, a Delhi-based environmental lawyer. The hc had rejected their plea stating that "trade and business at the cost of disrupting life forms and linkages necessary for the preservation of biodiversity and ecology cannot be permitted".

Hailing sc's decision, Ashok Kumar, senior adviser and trustee, Wildlife Trust of India, said: "A 4,000-year-old tradition of carving in ivory comes to an end. It was either the tradition or the tusker. India chose the tusker."

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