Wildlife Service Award
Lawyer, committed activist and wilderness defender
Incensed by how wildlife criminals have made a mockery of the law, Nagpur-based lawyer Kartik Shukul is not only putting poachers and traders behind bars, he’s also keeping them there with his superb knowledge of the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972.
He runs a commercial law practice, offers advice to several NGOs working in the field of wildlife protection and makes himself available to state Forest Departments, to raise the level of understanding of relevant laws at training institutes, conferences and often at strategy meetings where stacks of legal documents need to be interpreted to obtain higher rates of convictions. All this while he continues to indulge his love for wildlife photography, usually with a trip to the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve.
A Nagpur-based lawyer, Shukul is stoically chipping away at the complacency that has thus far characterised the prosecution of dangerous wildlife criminals in India… those whose deeds have been equated with petty crimes for much too long. With his superb knowledge of the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972, and an incredible understanding of supporting precedents, Shukul is not only putting poachers and traders behind bars, he’s also keeping them there!
Regularly appearing as a Special Counsel for the Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh Forest Departments, this legal eagle has won an impressive number of convictions from the courts, including the cancellation of bail for ‘Chacha’, the notorious tiger skin trader whose crimes rival those of the late Sansar Chand. The landmark judgment that he was awarded in the case put an end to the era of ‘automatic bail’ for those accused of poaching and trade. Driven by his passion for nature and incensed by how wildlife criminals have made a mockery of the law, Shukul takes a no-holds barred approach to every case he accepts. He works with doctors, forensic examiners, the Forest Department and other colleagues to tear gaping holes in the cases of the defendants, making it near impossible for any judge to rule in their favour.
Shukul acknowledges the efforts of his team and associates in his success, specifically outlining the contributions of Pandurang Pakhale (see page 29), a Range Forest Officer of Maharashtra’s Pench Tiger Reserve. Pakhale has arrested over a dozen tiger poachers, busted a pangolin poaching racket and fearlessly appeared in court time and again, in spite of the immense political pressure against him for upsetting the status quo. Battling false allegations and threats from the wildlife crime syndicate, he has kept both his morale and morals high. With his perseverance and Shukul’s legal acumen, they have proved how effective the law can be if forest officials and lawyers work in tandem.
Despite the tedious rigours of his work, Shukul also manages to devote many hours every month to building capacity within members of the lower judiciary, police officers, Forest Department, and fellow lawyers by teaching them how to effectively wield his weapon of choice – the Wild Life Protection Act. Kartik Shukul is a man of integrity and intelligence, whose resilience is taking out wildlife criminals one court case at a time.
And for this, we honour him.
First published in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXVII No. 12, December 2017