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"All Isn't Well In Sundarbans": Calcutta High Court Directs Administration To Issue Protective Orders Retraining All Illegal Activities In The Area

Sparsh Upadhyay
7 March 2021 2:34 PM GMT
All Isnt Well In Sundarbans: Calcutta High Court Directs Administration To Issue Protective Orders Retraining All Illegal Activities In The Area
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Observing that the report placed before it indicates that all is not well in Sundarbans, the Calcutta High Court last week directed the local administration to issue protective orders retraining all illegal activities in the area. The Bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee was dealing with a writ petition pertaining to 'critical important...

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Observing that the report placed before it indicates that all is not well in Sundarbans, the Calcutta High Court last week directed the local administration to issue protective orders retraining all illegal activities in the area.

The Bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee was dealing with a writ petition pertaining to 'critical important issues' touching upon the 'ecologically fragile sector', Sundarbans.

The Plea in consideration before the Court directly relates to that part, which is normally termed as Sundarbans, insofar as it is within the territorial expanse of the district of South 24-Parganas and extends in part to North 24- Parganas as well.

Having perused earlier orders and the preliminary report of the two-person Committee, the Court observed that,

"There is a deficiency in the modality in the management of that part of the land which has very peculiar ecological and environmental settings as well as flora and fauna, which will be of critical importance in the management of India's geographical environment and ecological matters."

The Court also remarked,

"Sundarbans, we are told, is often reckoned as a unit of bio-diversity. Apart from having mangroves, it has the potential to be hounded upon by extraneous interests and considerations by unethical use which will be in conflict with laws."

Thus, in the aforesaid facts and circumstances, the Court issuing following directions to the District Magistrates of the districts of South 24- Parganas & North 24-Parganas or any other authority exercising Section 144 CrPC Powers:-

  • Consider issuing such protective orders which will restrain all illegal activities in the area in question.
  • The District Magistrates of the districts of South 24-Parganas and North 24-Parganas having jurisdiction over any part of Sundarbans will ensure that there is absolutely no activity of converting any part of Sundarbans from its "as is where is" condition, as obtained now.
  • Those officers and all police officers having jurisdiction over the area under the command of the Director-General of Police of the State of West Bengal will ensure that no violator shall be left without being dealt with in accordance with the law.

Further, the Court also made it clear that in case of any breach of the directions by any of the officials would invite personal liability in terms of civil and criminal laws,

The Court directed that the contents of this order be promptly communicated by the Registry to the District Magistrates and Collectors of the districts of South 24-Parganas and North 24-Parganas and to the Director-General of Police.

The Registry was also directed to communicate the order to the Chief Secretary of the State of West Bengal, for the purpose of issuing such directions to all subordinate officers under the command of the State Government, as would ensure that the contents of this order, in letter and spirit, are implemented, without fail, forthwith.

Lastly, the State Government officials as well as the petitioner's counsel have been given the liberty to place appropriate materials to show the Court "the legal nature of Sundarbans with reference to any particular enactment or enactments which would directly apply to the ecologically fragile and critically important area."

With this, the matter was posted for further hearing on 12th March 2021.

In related news, the Calcutta High Court last week directed the Courts subordinate to it to expedite the adjudication of matters pending under different animal laws and forest laws.

Significantly, the Bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee remarked,

"The judiciary should be prompt to ensure that all allegations of intrusion into the domain of the animals which result in allegations as to commission of offences gain prompt attention, requisite and timely adjudication."

Case title - Kalam Pailan Vs. The State of West Bengal & Ors [WPA 8514 of 2020]

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