Supreme Court Asks MoEFCC To Respond To Recommendation To Convert "Project Elephant" Into A Statutory Agency
The Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha, and Justice JB Pardiwala on Wednesday resumed hearings in the PIL seeking court's intervention in relation to the issue of a large number of unnatural death of wild elephants due to electrocution from power lines passing through the protected areas and elephant reserves. The bench asked the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change to respond to the recommendation made in the Gajah Report of converting "Project Elephant" into a statutory agency.
In a new development in the matter, the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change had filed a counter affidavit in the matter indicating that–
1. The area for elephant reserves in the country has been increased to 77705.42 square kilometers.
2. Elephant reserves exist across the country.
3. The consent has been issued by the Ministry to declare the Terai Elephant Reserve in Uttar Pradesh.
4. In the process of validating elephant corridors across the country, about 52% of the identified 88 corridor is listed in the Gajah Report have been validated and the task of completing validation of the other corridors is under progress.
An IA has been filed in the proceedings for joint inspection by the respondent states, MoEFCC, CEA, and CAA of all the protected areas and elephant reserves as well as vicinity of protected areas frequented by elephants. On 29th August 2019, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of India (MoEFCC) circulated the minutes of the 54th meeting of the standing committee of the national board of wildlife. The minutes record that the task force which was constituted in pursuance of the directions of the Apex court recommended certain measures for implementation by electricity supply units, Power Grid Corporation of India, the Central electricity Authority, and the state electricity boards. The court while asking for the status of compliance of the said recommendations noted today–
"At this stage, it would also be necessary to note that in the recommendations submitted in Gajah report, there was a recommendation to the effect that "Project Elephant" be converted into a statutory agency. Amendments can be made so as to effectuate the conferment of a statutory status on the authority. The task force has proposed that the new body may be termed as the 'National Elephant Conservation Authority' (NECA). Since the proposal would envisage requisite legislative amendments, this is something of which would be appropriate for the MoEFCC to respond within a specified time frame so that an integration of the progress which is made can be placed before the court."
While noting that the MoEFCC had also constituted the Central Project Elephant Monitoring Committee for the purpose of monitoring and implementation of relevant directions and guidelines regarding the conservation and protection of elephants, the court asked the Ministry to submit an updated status report apprising the court of the progress which has been made in that regard. CJI DY Chandrachud, while dictating the order said–
We therefore direct that within a period of four weeks –
1. MoEFCC and Central Electricity Authority shall ensure that necessary steps are taken for facilitating an inspection of the protected areas so as to facilitate implementation of the recommendations of the task force as accepted in the minutes of the meeting of the standing committee of the national board for wildlife;
2. MoEFCC shall specifically respond to the recommendation made in the Gajah Report on conferring statutory status on the proposed body namely National Elephant Conservation Authority (NECA);
3. In the meantime, ASG Bhati has submitted that MoEFCC shall collect the requisite information from states in respect of the recommendations contained in the Gajah Report as accepted. All the concerned states shall within a period of four weeks inform the MoEFCC information with regards to status in terms of implementation. Ministry shall collate all information given by states.
The petitioner in the matter was represented by Mr Kartik Shukul, Advocate & Mr. Abhikalp Pratap Singh AOR
Case Title: Prerna Singh Bindra And Ors. v. UoI And Ors. WP(C) No. 1212/2021 PIL