The Bombay HC has held that the state government is liable to pay compensation to citizens who suffer loss or damage because of the presence of wild animals, even if the official rulebook does not cover some of them.
"If a wild animal causes loss to an agriculturist or a citizen, it would be the responsibility of the appropriate government to make good the loss," a division bench of Justice SA Bobde and Justice PB Varale observed in a ruling last week.
"Certainly, it would be open to a citizen to claim compensation for the loss caused by any wild animal, whether (the animal) is specifically referred to in any provision, government resolution or not," the bench added while deciding a petition filed by Nagpur-based farmer Baburao Aglawe.
After retiring from a government job, Aglawe, 65, had started a banana farm at Tah in Wardha district. In March 2010, some tigers made his plantation their home after finding water in the area and stayed on till July before heading for the Bor Wildlife Sanctuary nearby.
After the tigers left and Aglawe found his crop damaged. On his plea, the forest department recommended a compensation of Rs 48 per plant. But the finance department rejected this in February last year, after which Aglawe approached the HC.
The finance department had apparently declined to grant compensation after finding that tigers were not covered under Maharashtra's July 2010 resolution, which entitles farmers suffering loss due to wild animals such as wild boar, bison and elephants to compensation.