HC restrains forest dept from organising walkathon at Asola Bhatti Sanctuary
Amicus curiae Gautam Narayan and Aditya Prasad told the court that the sanctuary is home to pythons, hyenas, and snakes and that humans could not be permitted to access it
The Delhi high court on Thursday restrained the forest department from organising the “Walk with Wildlife” walkathon and cyclothon this week at Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary amid conners about the potential threat to the participants from leopards there.
Justice Jasmeet Singh pronounced the order two days after saying the forest department was unaware of the whereabouts of the leopards. While reserving the judgment in the matter on Tuesday, he said the department was hoping the leopards would not come to the track where the event was being organised.
“How do you [forest department] expose people [who would be a part of the event] to that? You do not know about their [leopards] whereabouts. You are hoping they are shy animals. You are hoping that it is not an area where they will come. This kind of an adventure cannot be [permitted],” Justice Singh told advocate Satyakam, who appeared for the department.
“God forbid one person is hurt...one stray [leopard] out of these 8 to 9 come into this group of 20 people. There may be kids...How do we permit this? This may be a good initiative but the risk…” He added the department failed to produce the original files related to the proposal for the event despite its direction last week.
The department argued the event was being held on a 16-km track that people visiting the Neeli Jheel inside the sanctuary access after permission. It added that the event was being organised in compliance with the statutory requirements.
Amicus curiae Gautam Narayan and Aditya Prasad told the court the sanctuary is home to pythons, hyenas, and snakes and that humans could not be permitted to access it. They added the sanctuary was not demarcated into the core, exclusively for animals, and the buffer zone for tourists under supervision.
Deputy forest conservator Mandeep Mittal said the concept of core and buffer zones was inapplicable to a small sanctuary such as Asola Bhatti. He added the department would only allow people to walk on the patrolling tracks meant for officials and the sanctuary staff.
The court on Monday expressed dissatisfaction over the department’s inaction in differentiating between the core and buffer zones. It directed the department to not press ahead with its plan as it was ill-equipped to handle the situation. The court said it would not let people be exposed to risk.
Justice Singh asked Mittal about the number of leopards at the sanctuary and the core and buffer zones. “Are you not understanding gravity? You have 100 people. Tell me this plan as to how many leopards are in their sanctuary?”
Justice Singh asked Mittal whether the leopard spotted in Delhi’s Sainik Farms was caught. “Is this leopard from Asola?” askedJustice Singh. “You first get your house in order. It is a joke.”