The Supreme Court Tuesday allowed the union government to issue “comprehensive guidelines” for conservation of tiger habitat coupled with regulated low-impact eco-tourism in national parks and sanctuaries.
The apex court bench of Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice Swatanter Kumar, while giving the government seven days to notify its eco-tourism guidelines, said: “We can neither validate the guidelines nor declare them ultra vires.”
Asking the government to notify the guidelines, the court said that after the notification of the guidelines, it might modify its July 24 order barring all tourist activities in the core habitat of tiger reserves.
However, the court made it clear that if any of the affected states felt aggrieved by the new guidelines, then they could challenge them in the court.
As court permitted the government to notify its guidelines, Justice Patnaik said: “The powers of the states cannot be taken away by the centre or even Supreme Court can’t arrogate it to itself.”
The court said this when Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising urged it to affix the stamp of approval to the guidelines submitted by the government for its consideration.
“The outcome of the hearing is that the apex court will issue directions to the states,” Jaising said.
At this, Justice Patnaik said: “Notify the guidelines. Let them (states) challenge it. We can’t put our stamp over it. We are not the appellate authority over the guidelines.”
It left Jaising wondering “then what is the hearing all about”.
The government, in its new guidelines, had urged the apex court to permit usage of 20 percent core area of tiger habitat for regulated low-impact tourism in national parks and sanctuaries.
“Keeping in view the “importance of tourism in tiger conservation in mind, it is recommended that a maximum of 20 percent of the core/critical tiger habitat usage (not exceeding the present usage) for regulated, low-impact tourism may be permitted”, the government had told the court in its Sep 26 affidavit.
“Non-consumptive regulated, low-impact tourism could be permitted within the core/critical tiger habitat without in any way compromising the spirit of core/critical tiger habitat for tiger conservation”, the affidavit said.
The government had also said that if its guidelines were accepted, it could be notified under section 38 V of Wildlife (Protection) Act.
It had said that states might evolve their own guidelines on similar lines in other protected areas.
The court directed the listing of the matter for Oct 16.