With massive forest fires, as many as 79 reported only in the month of May, burning wildlife in Uttarakhand, the Supreme Court today agreed to hear on Monday a PIL which prays that entire wildlife in the region be declared a living entity with corresponding rights and the government be directed to take steps to prevent wildfires.
The PIL has been filed by advocate Rituparn Uniyal, a native of Tehri Garhwal In Uttarakhand.
While posting the matter for hearing on Monday, Justice Deepak Gupta, who was heading the bench, orally remarked that in the meantime, one can pray for rains as that is the only solution and no order of the court can help.
Uniyal moved the court after media reports showed up some disturbing figures that as many as 1451 incidents of forest fires were reported in Uttarakhand last year.
This year, in the months of April and May, 1493 incidents of forest fires have been reported and vast hectares of reserved forest area was adversely affected.
He cites another media report according to which Uttarakhand has lost 44,000 hectares of forest covers to fire which is roughly equivalent to 61,000 football fields ever since year 2000 when it was conferred Statehood.
The Petitioner has prayed to the court that entire animal kingdom including the avian and aquatic species be declared a legal entity with corresponding rights and liabilities.
He also sought probe into the land and timber mafias behind many of these forest fires.
Invoking the doctrine of Parens Patriae, the petitioner said the Supreme Court had itself held in Animal Welfare Board of India vs. A. Nagaraja & others that Article 21 of the Constitution, while safeguarding the rights of humans, protects life and the word "life" has been given an expanded definition and any disturbance from the basic environment which includes all forms of life, including animals life, which are necessary for human life, fall within the meaning of Article 21 of the Constitution. "Life" means something more than mere survival or existence or instrumental value for human beings, but to lead a life with some intrinsic worth, honour or dignity. All the animals have honour and dignity.
"Thus, in order to protect and promote greater welfare of animals including avian and aquatic, animals are required to be conferred with the status of legal entity/ legal person," says he.
It may be noted here that the Uttarakhand High Court had in July, 2018 declared entire animal kingdom to be a legal entity with rights of a living person.
Uniyal's PIL also seek directions to the government to frame policy to check forest fires.
(Image sourced from here)