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Ban shahtoosh shawl trade, SC directs J&K
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, November 23
After being declared one of the five mascots of the Beijing Olympics, Tibetan antelope chiroo, hunted for its precious wool, got protection from the Supreme Court as it directed the Jammu and Kashmir Government to put a complete ban on the manufacture and trade of shahtoosh shawls made of it.

A Bench of Ms Justice Ruma Pal, Mr Justice A. R. Lakshmanan and Mr Justice Dalveer Bhandari in an interim order directed the Jammu and Kashmir Government to enforce in letter and spirit the J and K Wildlife (Protection) Act, prohibiting the hunting of chiroo, sale of its wool, manufacture and trade of shahtoosh shawls or any other product made from it.

Though the Act provides for the inclusion of chiroo in Schedule-I of the endangered species, a petition filed by Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) Vice-Chairman Ashok Kumar alleged that the state government had not taken steps to implement the law fully.

Directing the state government to file the action taken report within four weeks on its order, the court while giving a series of directions yesterday said it would continue monitoring the enforcement of its directive. It also sought details from the J and K Government whether the hunting of the species was still continuing and if so had any person been prosecuted by it.

Under the law passed by the state, any person having a shahtoosh shawl in his possession for bona fide use, purchased before the implementation of the Act, could keep it only after the Wildlife authorities had granted a certificate to this effect.

Chiroo is generally found in India in the Ladakh region of J and K, besides some places in Himachal Pradesh bordering Tibet, Sikkim and Nepal.

The shy animal, which normally lives in herds in high altitudes of the snow-covered Himalayas, is being indiscriminately killed for its wool to make shahtoosh shawls, mainly manufactured in J and K, which fetched a very high price for it.

China, organising next Olympics in Beijing, had recently named chiroo as one of the five mascots for the games with a view to spreading awareness about the protection of the Tibetan antelope, which faces extinction if no steps are taken to save it.

The WTI functionary in his public interest litigation (PIL), filed in 2003, had said that despite the ban on the manufacture and sale of shahtoosh shawls under the law passed by J and K, the weaving of the same was continuing unabated in the state and the product was being smuggled out to major cities in the country and abroad.

WTI counsel Sanjay Parikh said the illegal manufacture and sale of shahtoosh shawls also amounted to a violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), to which India is among the169 nation signatories.

Parikh said chiroo had been included in Appendix-I of the CITES, completely prohibiting the trade of any product made of its wool.

He said of late Nepal had emerged as the most convenient route for smuggling of raw material for shahtoosh shawls from the Tibetan region, specially to Srinagar as the expert weavers were only found there.

The seizure data placed before the court indicated that weaving of shahtoosh shawls was going on illegally in J and K, particularly in Srinagar under the nose of the authorities and the product was made ready available to tourists, Parikh said.


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