Failure of states to respond to Centre’s communication on elephant corridors irks Supreme Court

The Supreme Court today said it was “extremely unfortunate” that several states have not responded to two communications sent by the Centre on the issue of elephant corridors to curb human-animal conflict and reduce animal fatalities.

The apex court pulled up these states and noted that only three — Kerala, West Bengal and Meghalaya — have so far responded to the letters sent by the Centre in August and November last year.

“It is extremely unfortunate,” a bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said.

It asked the state, including Assam, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Odisha and Tripura, to submit their responses to the Centre within two weeks.

The apex court also expressed its displeasure that counsel representing several states were not present in the courtroom during the hearing.

When the counsel appearing for Tamil Nadu said that they would respond to the Centre’s letter, the bench said, “Why have you not responded? Do you want another Veerappan (notorious forest brigand)? Tamil Nadu is the hotbed of all this and you have not bothered to respond.”

Similarly, the bench also pulled up the counsel representing Assam on why they have not given their response to the Centre on the issue.

Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that a committee has already been formed to consider the suggestions, including making corridors across India for safe passage of elephants and other endangered animals.

He said that in an another related matter, which is pending in the apex court, they had sent communications to several states to know about the action taken by them in this regard but only three of them have responded so far.

During the hearing, the bench also expressed its concern that three elephants had died last week in the country.

The apex court had earlier stressed on the need to have elephant corridors across the country to reduce animal fatalities due to accidents and other reasons and had asked the Centre to come out with some “workable solution” in this regard.

The court was hearing a batch of pleas which have raised the issue of having elephant corridors across India.

On January 19, the Centre had informed another bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra that a standing committee of the wildlife board would consider suggestions, including making 27 corridors across India for safe passage of elephants and other endangered animals.

The petitioners in the case pending before the CJI-led bench had given suggestions, including a mechanism to curb human-animal conflict, measures to reduce animal deaths on the roads, highways and by electrocution and plan to protect critically-endangered Great Indian Bustard.

The petitioners had also referred to unnatural deaths of elephants on highways and railway tracks and said that areas earmarked for these animals were not sufficient.

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