Sunday, June 4, 2023

Calcutta High Court directs Divisional Forest Officer to look into plea seeking permission for traditional forest dwellers to collect snails

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The Calcutta High Court has disposed of a Public Interest Litigation seeking permission for traditional forest dwellers to collect snails, other than 24 protected species covered under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1927.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj, while dismissing the plea, granted liberty to the petitioner to file appropriate comprehensive representation before the concerned Divisional Forest Officer.

It further directed the DFO to duly look into the grievance of the petitioner and pass a reasoned speaking order as expeditiously as possible, preferably within a period of three months from the date of receipt of the representation.

The petitioner, claiming himself to be a traditional forest dweller residing at Kultali Islands of Sundarban, has raised a plea that the traditional forest dwellers were not permitted to collect snails and that it was their usual activity to collect and supply from the forest area and these shells were also used in cottage industry.

Duke Banerjee, Counsel for the petitioner, referring to the reply dated May 30, 2022, sent in response to the information sought under the RTI Act, has pointed out that there were only 24 protected species of snails covered under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1927 and that the petitioner was not collecting those protected categories.

The Counsel for the petitioner has submitted that though the representation dated 18.07.2022 was submitted to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, but no action has been taken on the said representation.  

The Counsel for the State has opposed the petition by submitting that the issue is covered by the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and snails are covered under the Forest Resources, therefore, their collection cannot be allowed. 

He has submitted that the petitioner does not have necessary licence and certificate, but he has fairly submitted that if the petitioner files a representation before the concerned Divisional Forest Officer, then his grievance will be duly looked into. The counsel for the petitioner has agreed for it.

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