Elevated rail corridor can save Gir lions : Gujarat High Court

A lawyer told the Gujarat High Court on Thursday that an elevated rail corridor was the best solution to save lions from getting run over by trains passing close to the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary.

Taking into consideration various other suggestions, a bench of justices S R Brahmbhatt and A G Uraizee ordered the formation of a committee to identify the problems and bottlenecks in the way of conservation of lions in the sanctuary.

The bench was suo motu (on its own) hearing a public interest litigation (PIL), which was admitted by the court in March last year, over the issue of high death rate of lions in Gir due to various reasons like train and road accidents, falling into wells and electrocution.

During the Thursday hearing, advocate Anand Yagnik, who does not represent any party in the case but was allowed by the court to share his views on the issue, told the bench that the maximum number of lions were getting killed after being run over by trains.

He said the big cats could be saved from being hit by trains if the railway tracks were laid on an elevated corridor, like the metro tracks or those of the upcoming bullet train project.

Yagnik added that such elevated corridors were built in three major national parks — Jim Corbett (Uttarakhand), Sundarbans (West Bengal) and Kanha (Madhya Pradesh) — to save the wildlife from being run over by trains.

“If elevated rail corridors were constructed in these three national parks, then why not in Gir?,” he asked.

The counsel representing the Indian Railways told the bench that he would convey the suggestion to the Railway Board.

Prior to Yagnik’s submissions, Gujarat’s Assistant Advocate General P K Jani informed the court about the steps taken by the state government to prevent lions from falling into open wells near the forest area.

Jani told the court that since there was no law to compel locals to construct walls around their wells, the authorities could only persuade them or give them incentives to erect such structures.

Taking into consideration these submissions, the bench said a committee was needed to identify all the problems and bottlenecks, which were posing a hindrance in the conservation of lions.

The bench asked all the stakeholders, including the collectors of the three districts over which the sanctuary was spread, the railways, the locals and the forest officials, to form a joint committee for the purpose.

The next hearing in the case will be held on February 27.

According to the 2015 census, there were 523 lions in the Gir forest, the last abode of Asiatic lions.

The Gujarat government had last year claimed that the number had gone over 600.

Godhra case: HC lets Centre withdraw appeal

Gujarat high courtThe Gujarat high court has allowed the Centre to withdraw its appeal against an earlier order which had termed as illegal the Justice U C Banerjee Commission appointed by the then UPA government in 2004 to to probe the Godhra train burning incident.

The high court, in its order passed on July 25, granted permission to the newly-formed BJP-led NDA government at the Centre to withdraw appeal against the high court order.

The high court had, in October 2006, discarded the findings of the Banerjee panel report and ruled that the probe was “unconstitutional, illegal and null and void” but the erstwhile UPA government had challenged it.

“The petitioner (the Union government) seeks permission to withdraw this appeal. Permission, as prayed for, is granted. The present appeal stands disposed of as withdrawn. Rule is discharged,” the Gujarat high court division bench comprising justice K S Jhaveri and justice A G Uraizee said in the order passed on July 25.

The commission had been formed by the then Union railway minister Lalu Prasad in 2004 to probe the Sabarmati train burning incident in which 59 persons, mostly kar sevaks, had lost their lives in 2002 in Godhra which was followed by anti-Mulsim riots in the state.

At that time, the Gujarat government-appointed Nanavati Commission was already probing the incident.

The Banerjee commission had come up with its interim report on January 17, 2005 stating that the S-6 coach burning incident was an “accident”, whereas the Justice Nanavati probe panel had, in its year 2008 report, held that it was a “pre-planned conspiracy”.

The commission’s interim report had also cited forensic evidence stating that the injuries on the victims were only compatible with an ‘internal fire’.

However, findings of the Banerjee commission were challenged before the high court by one Neelkanth Bhatia, who had sustained injuries in the train burning incident.

Bhatia had submitted in the plea that the incident cannot be probed by Banerjee panel as it had been probed by the state government-formed Nanavati commission.

(Source: PTI)