6 Sep 2022 6:30 AM GMT
The Orissa High Court has directed the Principal, Chief Conservator of Forests ('PCCF') to submit 'comprehensive action plan' to control and minimise the rising unnatural deaths of wild animals in general and elephants in particular, across the State. A Division Bench of Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar and Justice Chittaranjan Dash noted, "Apart from the issue of poaching and...
The Orissa High Court has directed the Principal, Chief Conservator of Forests ('PCCF') to submit 'comprehensive action plan' to control and minimise the rising unnatural deaths of wild animals in general and elephants in particular, across the State.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar and Justice Chittaranjan Dash noted,
"Apart from the issue of poaching and unnatural deaths of elephants, the JTF (Joint Task Force) is to look into the cases of poaching of tigers, leopards and illegal trade of pangolins. One Public Prosecutor in each district is expected to be entrusted with the handing of these cases. There are certain other tasks set out for the JTF including the creation of awareness about protection of wildlife among all the stakeholders."
Pursuant to the earlier order of the Court, two affidavits were filed. The first was by the Director General of Police (DGP) in which the proceedings of the meeting held on 17th August, 2022 under the Chairmanship of the Chief Secretary of Odisha was enclosed. He conveyed that a decision was taken on that meeting to constitute a Joint Task Force (JTF) comprising officers from the Forest and Police Departments to investigate different cases of unnatural deaths of the elephants in the State. The JTF was proposed to function under the PCCF, Wildlife and the DGP was expected to provide the required number of police officials of different ranks to act as members of the JTF.
The Court found that while the steps proposed were in the nature of 'remedial' action, there was nothing provided in terms of 'preventive' action. Again, the Court observed that the composition of the JTF is not 'broad-based' to accommodate the views of wildlife experts or civil society groups involved in wildlife conservation or those working with farmers who may have lost their crops and other interested persons engaged in the issue of man-animal conflict.
At this juncture, the Advocate General Mr. Ashok Parija volunteered and assured that the JTF will either 'co-opt' wildlife experts and civil society groups or consult them in all its deliberations which will take place at least once in two weeks so that a comprehensive action plan can be drawn up including both the preventive and remedial elements.
Considering the number of petitions raising these very issues pertaining to unnatural death of animals, a direction was issued that counsel in each of the petitions shall prepare a short summary of their respective suggestions and provide them to the Advocate General within a week so as to enable him to examine all the suggestions and place those before the JTF for its perusal and consideration.
The Court further clarified that the lawyers and the JTF have to take into consideration the order of the Supreme Court in T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad v. Union of India (2012) concerning the "Asiatic Wild Buffalo", the judgment of the Karnataka High Court in Suo Motu v. State of Karnataka, the judgment of the Madras High Court in S. Manoj Immanual v. Union of India, W.P. (MD) No. 19711 of 2018 and the decision of the Supreme Court in Hospitality Association of Mudumalai v. In defence of Environment and Animals (2020). It also directed that the measures taken by the State of Assam in tackling similar problems in that state concerning elephant-human conflict will also be examined by the JTF.
Lastly, a direction was issued to the PCCF to place before the Court along with an affidavit, the comprehensive action plan drawn up by the JTF, before the next date. The matter was directed to be next listed on 26th September 2022.
Case Title: Gita Rout & Ors. v. State of Odisha & Ors.
Case No.: W.P.(C) No. 14706 of 2022 & other connected matters
Order Dated: 25th August 2022
Coram: Dr. S. Muralidhar, CJ. & Chittaranjan Dash, J.
Counsel for the Petitioners: Mr. Gautam Misra, Senior Advocate, Mr. Ashis Kumar Mishra & Mr. G.P. Mohanty, Advocates and Mrs. Mrinalini Padhi, In-Person
Counsel for the Respondents: Mr. Ashok Parija, Advocate General assisted by Mr. D.K. Mohanty, Additional Government Advocate & Mr. Iswar Mohanty, Additional Standing Counsel
Click Here To Read/Download Order