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Irked over poaching, Uttarakhand HC seeks tiger conservation body’s response on Corbett takeover

The Uttarakhand high court noted that the tiger population was “sharply dwindling” in Corbett and other parks, including Rajaji National Park, emphasising protection of big cats from poachers.

dehradun Updated: Aug 24, 2018 00:43 IST
Neeraj Santoshi
Neeraj Santoshi
Hindustan Times, Nainital
poaching,tiger conservation,Corbett
Corbett corridor is also the most significant habitat of wildlife, such as tigers, elephants, leopards, bears, and around 600 bird species, the Uttarakhand HC said. (Picture for representation)

Saying that “it is better to have no law than laws not enforced”, the Uttarakhand high court ruled on Thursday that as a “last/extreme measure”, it seeks the response of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) “to take over the management of Corbett Tiger Reserve, as an interim measure, till the state government becomes alive to its duties and start taking concrete decisions”.

Forest minister Harak Singh Rawat will move the Supreme Court against the order. “We will seek help from the Supreme Court in this matter,” he said.

The HC directed NTCA to submit a report within three months on how tigers of the Corbett reserve could be protected. The court also directed that NTCA and the Union ministry of environment and forest be made a party in the case.

“In order to protect the tigers and the wildlife, the NTCA, being an expert body, is requested to suggest what concrete steps should be taken to conserve and preserve the tiger population in the core/critical areas as well as in buffer zones in a time-bound manner,” the HC order said.

“It shall be open to the NCTA to suggest whether a few tigers can be relocated/shifted to save them from poaching/killing to other well-managed national parks/sanctuaries. This report be filed by the NCTA within three months after conducting an in-depth study.”

A division bench of acting chief justice Rajiv Sharma and justice Lok Pal Singh gave the directions while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) regarding encroachments around the Corbett Tiger Reserve. The HC said the Corbett reserve director has undertaken to pass orders on or before August 30 for the eviction of Van Gujjars.

The court noted that the tiger population was “sharply dwindling” in Corbett and other parks, including Rajaji National Park, emphasising protection of big cats from poachers. “We have ordered the state government to constitute the Special Tiger Protection Force. However, we have not been told what concrete steps have been taken to constitute STPF except buying time from the court on one pretext or the other,” the order said.

Corbett corridor is also the most significant habitat of wildlife, such as tigers, elephants, leopards, bears, and around 600 bird species, the HC said.

“There is bound to be human-animal conflict if the Van Gujjars and other habitations are permitted in the core/critical areas, buffer zones and the forests.... We have already noticed in previous orders that 9 tigers have died this year. It is an alarming trend. If it is not arrested, the tiger population may disappear from Corbett.”

The HC said, “It is better to have no law than laws not enforced. It is the duty of the state government to protect the wildlife and it is the duty of every person to protect and preserve the wildlife.”

The court was apprised that FIRs had been filed against seven persons caught around Corbett, from whose possession elephants were recovered. The HC said an affidavit has been filed in the court by the Nainital senior superintendent of police.

“It again reflects the helplessness to nab the culprits against whom the FIRs were registered by the DFO, Ramnagar,” the court said.

“...One Mohammad Aslam, custodian of elephant ‘Asian Laxmi’, was served with the notice...rest of the (four) accused are absconding...SSP Nainital has not cared even to mention what steps are being taken to nab these culprits and whether any Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been constituted to nab them or not.”

The HC said, “Even one of the accused has been permitted to go on Haj. One person, namely Balkar Singh, is residing abroad in Canada. What steps have been taken for his extradition are also not spelt out.”

First Published: Aug 24, 2018 00:43 IST