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No Activity Involving Human Intervention To Take Place In Sundarban Biosphere Area, Tiger Reserve & Reserve Forest, Calcutta HC Issues Direction For 6 Months

Sparsh Upadhyay
16 March 2021 3:37 PM GMT
No Activity Involving Human Intervention To Take Place In Sundarban Biosphere Area, Tiger Reserve & Reserve Forest, Calcutta HC Issues Direction For 6 Months
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In a significant move, the Calcutta High Court last week, in the exercise of its authority under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, directed to prohibit all activities in the areas, namely, Sundarban Biosphere Area, Sundarban Tiger Reserve, and the adjoining Reserve Forest. The Bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Aniruddha Roy directed thus,...

In a significant move, the Calcutta High Court last week, in the exercise of its authority under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, directed to prohibit all activities in the areas, namely, Sundarban Biosphere Area, Sundarban Tiger Reserve, and the adjoining Reserve Forest.

The Bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Aniruddha Roy directed thus, while observing that it was necessary to direct that there shall be no activity whatsoever by human intervention in any part of the three parcels.

The Bench was dealing with a writ petition pertaining to 'critical important issues' touching upon the 'ecologically fragile sector', Sundarbans.

It may be noted that during the course of the last hearing, the Calcutta High Court had directed the local administration to issue protective orders retraining all illegal activities in the area.

Further, on March 12th, the Court perused the report placed on record by the District Magistrate, South 24 Parganas and connected papers.

Court's observations

At the outset, the Court noted,

"It (the report) discloses gross onslaught on to the ecological and environmental fabric and the animal life in the area, which is referred to as Sundarbans and its adjoining areas, which operate as life support systems to that ecological unit."

The Court further noted that the ecologically and the environmentally fragile area was not only being encroached upon but was also being deprived of its ability to sustain itself as a unit of ecological and environmental balance mechanism.

Underling that the biosphere imbalance will directly impact the plant and animal life, the Court made it clear that the Sundarban area cannot be utilized or permitted to be accessed except for its preservation, management, protection and custody by and under the control of its custodians in law.

Further, the Court observed,

"Strict measures by way of restrictions imposed through a judicial order by this Court in the exercise of authority under Article 226 of the Constitution of India is absolutely essential as of now, to ensure the protection of that environmentally sensitive and ecologically fragile area and the animal and plant life and other aspects relating to that area."

Thus, the Court directed that all activities in the aforesaid areas, be prohibited except to the extent such activity maybe permitted by the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests & Director, Sunderban Biosphere Reserve, or such authority under his control, who may be nominated by the Chief Conservator of Forests.

Subject to such permission, the Court directed that interdiction imposed would have to be strictly enforced by the District Magistrate/District Magistrates concerned having jurisdiction over those areas and the Superintendent / Superintendents of Police having jurisdiction over those areas.

As of now, this system has been put to operation for a period of six months from now, unless modified.

Within that period the State Government has been directed,

"To address the issue as to whether all the areas, to which reference is made in this order, could be brought under one umbrella even in terms of administration so that executive control and police control can be effectively and smoothly enforced over the entire area."

Lastly, the Court directed the State to ensure that this order is appropriately communicated to all concerned, it is published in the State Government website and it is published in a vernacular newspaper having wide circulation in the State of West Bengal at the expense of the State.

The matter has now been posted for further hearing on 25th March, 2021.

In related news, the Calcutta High Court has recently 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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