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Will ask Centre to denotify national parks if you can’t protect tigers, elephants: HC to U’khand govt

The Uttarakhand high court on Friday remarked that if the state government can’t “protect, preserve and conserve tigers and elephants”, it would ask the Centre to denotify national parks such as Corbett and let the government build race courses and run vehicles freely there

dehradun Updated: Aug 10, 2018 21:21 IST
Neeraj Santoshi
Neeraj Santoshi
Hindustan Times, Nainital
Corbett Tiger Reserve.
Corbett Tiger Reserve.(HT Photo)
         

The Uttarakhand high court on Friday remarked that if the state government can’t “protect, preserve and conserve tigers and elephants”, it would ask the Centre to denotify national parks such as Corbett and let the government build race courses and run vehicles freely there. The court also said let the animals then go wherever they want to.

The HC expressed displeasure in strong words over the way the state government had replied to points raised by it regarding protection of the wildlife in the state in its affidavit.

The HC said the reply of the state government was vague and evasive. The court also questioned both additional chief secretary Ranvir Singh and chief wildlife warden Rajeev Bhartari for nearly two hours on various issues related to the wildlife protection and the way the state government was dealing with them.

Shift Van Gujars at the earliest from protected areas

While hearing a public interest litigation regarding encroachments around Corbett tiger reserve and other related petitions, division bench of justices Rajiv Sharma and Lok Pal Singh said it was giving one last chance to the state government to reply when it was going to shift Van Gujars out of protected areas in Corbett and Rajaji tiger reserves.

Van Gujars were illegally living and contributing in poaching activities in connivance with the poachers.

The HC said it was not satisfied with the manner in which these ‘Van Gujjars’ are to be relocated. “The policy framed by the NTCA would only applicable to the core area and critical area. There is no policy for the buffer zone,” the order said.

The HC said the presence of the ‘Van Gujars’ in Corbett prima facie was illegal. “They are not entitled to any specific privileges. They used to come from Jammu and Kashmir only during summers for grazing purpose. They were issued grazing licence temporarily. They could not settle in the reserved forest of Corbett Tiger Reserve. How they have been made permitted to make permanent settlement in the national parks, protected forest and reserved forest, is beyond our comprehension,” the order said.

Only WII to work on camera trapping of tigers from now

The HC also directed that from now on only Wildlife Institute Of India will work on the project of camera trapping of tigers and other private organisations like World Wildlife Fund should not be allowed to do so henceforth.

On not making ‘Special Tiger Protection Force’ functional

The high court said it does not appreciate the manner in which the issue of constitution of ‘Special Tiger Protection Force’ (STPF) has been dealt with by the state government.

“The constitution of STPF was made in 2014. We are in 2018 but nothing concrete has been done except making correspondence and false promises made to this court and the public at large.”

The HC said additional chief secretary Ranvir Singh undertakes that he will prepare a note and place the same before the chief minister and the forest minister at the earliest for constitution of STPF within a week.

The next hearing in the case has been fixed on August 16 and additional chief secretary and Conservator Shivalik Circle have been directed to remain present in the high court.

File FIRs within 24 hours against persons from whose possession elephants were seized

The high court also directed the forest department to file FIRs within 24 hours against the persons, from whose possession the elephants were recovered, for violating the mandatory provisions of the Wildlife Protect Act, 1972, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and further as per the provisions of the Indian Penal Code.

“Elephants (around Corbett) were made to walk on metalled roads. The cruelty has been meted out to the elephants. The condition of the elephants was pathetic. The elephants were found maltreated, ill-treated and they were sick and maimed. Now, these elephants have been rescued and kept at Aamdanda Gate.

“The veterinary doctors are looking after them. The chief wildlife warden further submits that the veterinary doctors have advised them to treat the elephants first and thereafter to relocate them to Chilla in Rajaji National Park, as ordered by this court or at some other suitable place,” the order said.

Trial courts directed to expedite poaching cases within 6 months

The HC directed the trial courts to expedite and conclude the trials/civil suits of poaching cases within six months. The court also appointed district judges as nodal officers to supervise the progress of trials and civil suits pertaining to poaching and unauthorized occupation in the forest areas. The HC directed that progress on the cases be submit through a report to it every fortnight.

First Published: Aug 10, 2018 21:21 IST