Answer from Praveen Bhargav, Trustee, Wildlife First:
Doubts have been raised as to how feeding of Crocodiles by the resort near Dandeli Tiger Reserve constitutes an offence under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (WLPA). Here’s a short explanation on the correct legal position:
Sub-section (36) of Section 2 defines a wild animal which includes any species listed in Schedule I to IV and found wild in nature. Crocodile is a wild animal listed in Schedule I, Part II of the WLPA. The definition of hunting contained in Sub-section (16) of Section 2 of the WLPA includes baiting any captive or wild animal and every attempt to do so. Therefore, baiting a Schedule I species amounts to hunting which is an offence under Section 9. The WLPA prohibits hunting not just in a Sanctuary/National Park or Tiger Reserve but also in any area outside including private land.
Under sub-section (1) of Section 51 a hunting offence is punishable with imprisonment for a period of not less than 3 years but extending to 7 years and with a fine which shall not be less than Rs. 10,000”. As per Section 52 even those who attempt to or abet hunting are liable for the same punishment. Sub-section 4 of Section 54 lays down that no offence which carries a minimum imprisonment term can be compounded. In other words a forest officer / police officer cannot collect a fine and release a person who is caught hunting any wild animal inside a National Park, Sanctuary or Tiger Reserve. In other forests or private land hunting of any species listed in Schedule I or Part II of Schedule II cannot be compounded.
Any person accused of hunting (baiting) must be prosecuted by filing a complaint by the authorised officer under Section 55 of the WLPA in the court of the jurisdictional Judicial Magistrate (First Class).