The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the power of the Tamil Nadu government to notify an “elephant corridor” and protect the animal migration route through the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
- The reserve is the largest protected forest area in India and spans Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.
- A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde said it was the state’s duty to protect a “key species” like elephants, which are extremely important to the ‘environment.
- The corridor is located on the fragile Sigur Plateau, which connects the Western and Eastern Ghats and supports elephant populations and their genetic diversity.
- It has the Nilgiri Hills on its southwest side and the Moyar River Valley on its northeast side. Elephants roam the plateau in search of food and water depending on the monsoon.
“Elephant corridors allow elephants to continue their nomadic survival mode, despite reduced forest cover, by facilitating movement between different forest habitats … these corridors play a crucial role in sustaining wildlife by reducing the amount of ‘impact of habitat isolation,’said Judge S. Abdul Nazeer, who drafted the judgment.
- The Supreme Court ruling came in 32 appeals filed by private property complexes / landowners, including Bollywood actor Mithun Chakraborty, against a July 2011 Madras High Court ruling.
- The High Court upheld a ruling by government state of August 2010, notifying the elephant corridor.
- The tribunal established an inquiry committee made up of three members of the former Madras HC judge, Judge K. Venkatraman; Ajay Desai, consultant for the World Wide Fund for Nature-India; and Praveen Bhargava, Senior Wildlife Administrator.
- Appellants can address the committee in four months with their complaints against actions taken by collector Nilgiris, which included sealing his buildings, and allegations of “the arbitrary variation in the elephant corridor area.”
- The court had clearly expressed its empathy for the pachyderms even during the hearing of the case.
“The elephant is a gentleman and the man must give way to the elephant,”Chief Justice Bobde said before reserving the case for trial on January 22.
- The tribunal took serious note of a report submitted by the amicus curiae, lawyer A.D.N. Rao, to seal or demolish 821 buildings, excluding tribal houses, in areas designated as elephant corridor by the government of Tamil Nadu.
- Mr. Rao suggested a rehabilitation plan for 186 households belonging to the programmed caste, the backward caste and the most backward caste.
- Chief Justice Bobde had refused to file individual complaints raised by private landowners against the August 2010 notification under the Tamil Nadu Private Forest Preservation Act of 1949.
- When some of the owners of the complex expressed their opinion that the elephant and the man coexist, Chief Justice Bobde replied wryly: “It is because the elephant is a gentleman … why do you have to go in? the forest? “
- In 2011, the High Court ruled that the government had been authorized by the Centre’s Elephant Project to allocate the corridor because there were no obstacles in the Wildlife Protection Act.
- He argued that the state government’s action to identify the corridor was in full obligation with its duties under Article 51-A (g) of the Constitution, which said it was the duty to every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment, including wildlife.
- The Supreme Court appreciated the efforts of defender “Elephant” Rajendran, whose petition under “In defense of the environment and animals” called for the protection of the free movement of elephants.