The Nagpur bench of Bombay high court has held that the Wildlife Protection Act, which declares wild animals property of the government in context of their protection, also includes liability to pay compensation for loss and damage caused by them.
“If a wild animal causes loss to an agriculturist or a citizen, it would be the responsibility of the government to make good the loss,” a division bench of justices SA Bobde and PB Varale observed while deciding the petition filed by a Nagpur-based farmer, Baburao Aglawe.
In March 2010, tigers entered Aglawe’s banana plantation in Tar, Wardha district, and stayed in it for four months. When they left Bor Wildlife Sanctuary, Aglawe found major damage had been caused to the plants and approached the forest department for compensation. Acting on his plea, the deputy conservator of forests (wildlife) recommended that compensation be paid to the aggrieved farmer.
The finance department, however, disagreed and the plea was rejected on February 13 last year, on the grounds that tigers are not covered under the state’s government resolution issued in July 2010, which entitles farmers suffering loss due to wild animals such as wild boar, deer and bison.
Aglawe moved court through his counsel PD Meghe, which questioned why he should not be compensated when the provision applies to other wild animals. “The exclusion of the tiger from the resolution is not reasonable,” the court observed. “Any citizen can claim compensation for loss caused by any wild animal, whether [the animal] is specifically referred to in any provision, government resolution or not,” the bench added.