Elephants
Elephants|Parveen Kaswan
Litigation News

Unnatural deaths of elephants and bison in North Bengal: Calcutta HC takes suo motu cognizance

"...it is time for the judiciary to have a look at matters touching the safety of the jungle habitat and the forests, having particular regard to the interest of the wildlife...", the Bench said, while taking cognizance.

Lydia Suzanne Thomas

Acting on its own motion, the Calcutta High Court has taken cognizance of the mounting numbers of the unnatural deaths of elephant, bison, and other wildlife in North Bengal (In Re: Unnatural death of Elephants, Bisons and other wild animals, birds, reptiles, amphibians etc. in North Bengal during the recent past).

Taking note of various news reports on such deaths, Chief Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan and Justice Subhasis Dasgupta stated:

"We think that it is time for the judiciary to have a look at matters touching the safety of the jungle habitat and the forests, having particular regard to the interest of the wildlife in the form of animals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, etc. as well as the flora and fauna including the preservation of forest wealth."
Calcutta High Court

The Court noted that in many cases, the deaths were deemed to have been a result of electrocution. However, the Bench pointed out that killing of animals for gain or game "could not be ruled out".

The Court has decided to examine the wildlife management situation in the Buxa Tiger Reserve and the Jaldapara National Park in Alipurduar district and the Gorumara National Park, Binnaguri in Jalpaiguri District.

Recording its concern for the unnecessarily high number of deaths caused by electrocution in the Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri districts, the Court observed that the movement of trains also posed a risk to wildlife.

The railways' policy of 'protective intrusion' into forest zones had to be considered, the Court opined additionally.

"The railway administration’s modality of protective intrusion into the forest area also deserves to be considered", states its order.

The Court has called upon the Chief Wildlife Warden to table a report on the safety of wildlife in Alipurdar and Jalpaiguri districts and other critical areas.

The following functionaries were also directed to be impleaded as respondents:

  1. Animal Welfare Division of Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF)

  2. Government of West Bengal

  3. Principal Secretary, Department of Forests, Government of West Bengal,

  4. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Government of West Bengal,

  5. Chief Electrical Inspector, Department of Power & Non-conventional Energy Sources, Government of West Bengal,

  6. Chief Wildlife Warden, West Bengal,

  7. West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd.,

  8. North East Frontier Railway represented by the General Manager,

  9. District Magistrates of Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar,

  10. The Superintendents of Police of Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar

The High Court Registrar-General and the Member-Secretary of the West Bengal Legal Services Authority were also added as parties to assist the Court.

Read the Order:

In Re Unnatural death of Elephants, Bisons and other wild animals, birds, reptiles, amphibians etc. in North Bengal during the recent past.pdf
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