Court slaps Rs. 5L cost on illegal occupant of govt accommodation in Tiger Reserve for coming to court in garb of PIL
As poaching, illegal mining and unauthorized occupants in the Tiger Reserve Area in Uttarakhand continue to take toll on wildlife with eight tigers dying in the state this year, the Uttarakhand High Court has directed the state to deploy drones and CCTV cameras in order to detect poaching/illegal mining in the Corbett National Park and Rajaji National Park within three months.
Cracking the whip on the government for its lackadaisical attitude towards wildlife protection, a bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Lok Pal Singh also sought to know if the Tiger Reserve Force, as directed by the court in earlier PILs, has been constituted and the steps taken to comply with its directions issued in this regard from time to time.
The bench passed the following mandatory directions:-
The order of the bench came on what it called a “private litigation filed in the garb of Public Interest Litigation” wherein one Vishvanath Singh had challenged the notification dated February 26, 2010, vide which core area of 821.99 sq. km. and buffer area of 466.32 sq. km., total area of 1288.31 sq. km., of Corbett National Park situated in the State of Uttarakhand, has been declared as “Tiger Reserve” as intended by National Tiger Conservation Authority in its letter dated November 9, 2009.
So piqued was the bench upon learning from a counter-affidavit filed by the state that the petitioner himself was in illegal occupation of a government accommodation in Kalagarh Tiger Reserve in Pauri Garhwal, that it slapped a cost of Rs. 5 lakh on him.
“This is a private litigation in the garb of Public Interest Litigation. The Court cannot be privy to such like petition. It is also intriguing to note that the petitioner who is found to be a rank encroacher has not been vacated till date. This cannot happen without the collusion and connivance of the State functionaries. The State machinery must protect its property. The notification has been issued strictly as per the mandate of Wild Life Protection Act, 1972,” it said.
On the submission of the counsel for the State of Uttarakhand that number of employees, even after their retirement, have not vacated the government accommodation, the bench said the same was in violation of December 2, 2013, order of the Supreme Court which directed the authorities to evict unauthorized occupants from government accommodation at Kalagarh.
Similar directions were also issued by the National Green Tribunal in September 2017.
“It is shocking that till date the State Government has neither implemented the directions issued by the Hon’ble Supreme Court nor by the National Green Tribunal. The persons are still in un-authorized occupation of the government accommodation. In Tiger Reserves, these un-authorized occupants are threat to the Wildlife. The possibility of their involvement in poaching cannot be overlooked,” said Justice Sharma in an oral order.