24 Feb 2021 1:35 PM GMT
The Orissa High Court on Tuesday (23rd February) registered suo-moto PIL [In Re : Olive Ridley Turtles] taking into cognizance Down to Earth Magazine's report (dated 04th February) based on the death of around 800 Olive Ridley sea turtles. The Bench of Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar and Justice B. P. Routray issued notices to the Government of Odisha, among others, to apprise the...
The Orissa High Court on Tuesday (23rd February) registered suo-moto PIL [In Re : Olive Ridley Turtles] taking into cognizance Down to Earth Magazine's report (dated 04th February) based on the death of around 800 Olive Ridley sea turtles.
The Bench of Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar and Justice B. P. Routray issued notices to the Government of Odisha, among others, to apprise the Court of the steps taken to deal with the crisis on an urgent basis.
The DTE's report (authored by Ashis Senapati) mentions the death of 800 Olive Ridley in Odisha since January this year in the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary, the world's largest rookery of the sea turtles.
The Report also mentions that turtles are dying after getting stuck in fishing nets. Many of the dead turtles bore injuries and were found trapped in a trawl or gill nets.
Importantly, the article goes on to state that a large number of sea turtles are in danger due to the presence of plastic, polythene and other litter at the sanctuary as well as the Rushikulya beach, which is another nesting site for the Olive Ridley species.
It has also been stated that many fishermen are dumping damaged fishing nets, plastic bottles, polythene and other hazardous materials into the ocean.
Further, the Report mentions that the carcasses of the dead turtles are emanating a foul smell on the beaches, thus turning away the visitors and that forest officials are burying the dead turtles in shallow pits, and that the beach is littered with dead Olive Ridley sea turtles.
The Court observed that it had examined this issue more than 25 years ago, wherein a detailed order was passed on 14th May 1998.
Also, in Biswajit Mohanty v. State of Orissa [O.J.C. No. 14889 of 1998], the Court had issued a large number of directions.
Significantly, when the Court realized that its directions required constant monitoring for their implementation, it had revived the petition and the last of the orders issued is dated 7th March, 2003.
However, for some reason, the petition does not appear to have been listed thereafter.
Thus, registering the instant suo-moto PIL, the Court found it appropriate to revive the issue to ensure that the threat caused to the Olive Ridley turtles that have been visiting the beaches of Odisha over many years are not endangered and that the general health of the coast is improved and preserved.
The Court also remarked,
"It is a matter of concern that despite several directions having been issued over the years, nothing much appears to have happened to improve the situation."
The Court also noted that the DTE's report refers to the Government of Odisha imposing a ban on fishing activities in the Gahiramatha Marine Sanctuary upto 20 kilometers off the shore from 1st November 2020 to 31st May 2021.
"Despite the State claiming that surprise raids are being carried out to implement the above ban order, clearly not enough has been done", remarked the Court.
Thus, the Court issued Notices to: -
to apprise the Court on the next date of the steps taken to deal with the crisis mentioned in the article in question, on an urgent basis.
The Court appointed Advocate Mohit Agarwal, as Amicus Curiae to assist the Court in the matter.
The matter has been listed for further hearing on 26th February, 2021.
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