The Madras High Court, on Wednesday, dismissed a Public Interest Litigation filed by one Viswanathan against the Tamil Nadu Government's decision to shift 1000 crocodiles from Madras Crocodile Bank Trust to Greens Zoological Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (GZRRC) in Gujarat.
The petitioner had challenged the decision on the ground that 1000 crocodiles were being shifted to a facility where only 56 crocodiles could be kept. He had also challenged grant of permission for operating the mini zoo stating that the same was in violation of provisions of the Wild Life Protection Act 1972, and the Recognition of Zoo Rules, 2009. He also submitted that the Zoo was allowed to operate a Rescue and Re-habitation Center within the Zoo, which is a violation of Rule 2(j) of the Recognition of Zoo Rules 2009.
He thus sought for quashing the order challenging the same to be illegal. He had also sought a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Crime Branch- Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) or a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the issue.
The bench of Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice N Mala dismissed the PIL after considering the fact that the Rehabilitation Centre had the necessary infrastructure. The court pointed out that even experts were satisfied with respect to the infrastructure available at the facility and thus the court did not find any ground to interfere with the decision. There was also photographic evidence that shows the infrastructure available in the facility.
The court also took into consideration the submission made by the Madras Crocodile Bank where they had conceded that they did not have the necessary financial backing to take proper care of the increasing number of crocodiles and vouched for the state of art infrastructure available at the Gujarat facility.
We are therefore of the opinion that the objections of the petitioner to the transfer of the 1000 crocodiles from the 4th respondent to the 3rd respondent rescue centre is devoid of merits and without any factual basis and as such rejected as untenable
The court noted that Wild animals were not the property of the State or Central government or any organisation or individuals. They are the wealth of the nation and no one could claim ownership over them. Taking an eco-centric approach, the court observed that it had a duty to protect both humans and non-humans. Authoring the judgment, Justice Mala observed as under
Our nation culturally has always been Ecocentric. We believe in peaceful co-existence with all creatures and our love and reverence for the animal world is reflected in our religion, folklore, art and craft. From ancient times we are known to have protected, venerated and conserved wild life. The legacy of protection of wild animals and plants is reflected in the constitution 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 by which Article 51-A was inserted in Part IV-A of the constitution.
The court also noted that the Supreme Court in Centre for Environmental Law, World Wide Fund-India Vs.Union of India had held that the approach to such issues should be Ecocentric and not Anthropocentric.
The Court has held that egocentric is life centered, nature centered where nature includes both human and non-humans. Anthropocentric on the other hand is always human interest focused. The rescue and rehabilitation of the crocodiles in issue have to be viewed from Ecocentric angle.
The court further highlighted that the Parliament did not intend to curtain the operation of Zoos by private firms. In fact, the National Zoo Policy of 1998, calls for synergy between various government agencies, non-government agencies and people at large for achieving the objectives of the Act.
The court also disagreed with the contention of the Petitioner and held that a rescue centre is covered by the definition of zoo under sec 2 (39)of the Wild Life Act.
Case Title: A. Viswanathan v. State of Tamil Nadu and others
Case No: WP 15230 of 2022
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Mad) 348
Counsel for the Petitioner: Mr.H.Agrawal for Dr.S.K.Samy
Counsel for the Respondent: Mr.P.MuthukumarG Government Pleader (R1), Ms.V.Sudha Central Government Standing Counsel (R2), Mr.Atul Nanda, Senior Counsel for Dr.Sujay N. Kantawala (R3), Mr.Niranjan Rajagopalan Assisted by Meghna Kumar for M/s.G.R.Associates (R4)