The National Green Tribunal (NGT) took Suo Motu cognizance of the issue that a chartered helicopter flew over the protected area of Mukurthi National Park in the Nilgiris.
The application is registered suo motu on the basis of the news item appearing in the daily newspaper dated 31.12.2023.
The news item discloses that a chartered helicopter flew over Mudhumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) and the protected area of Mukurthi National Park in the Nilgiris.
It also contains the stand of the Forest Department to avoid forest and protected areas in Tamil Nadu while designating paths for choppers and flights.
The news item raises substantial issue relating to compliance of environmental norms.
Power of the Tribunal to take up the matter in suo-motu exercise of power has been recognized by the Supreme Court in the matter of “Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai vs. Ankita Sinha & Ors.” reported in 2021 SCC Online SC 897.
Hence, the Principal Bench of Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Dr. Senthil Vel impleaded the following as respondents in the Original Application:
i. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Tamil Nadu Forest Department.
ii. Chief Wildlife Warden, Tamil Nadu.
iii. Directorate General of Civil Aviation through its Director General.
The status report on behalf of Respondents No. 1 and 2 has been filed stating that the helicopter took off from outside the boundaries of the reserve forest area. Along with a status report a communication of Tamil Nadu Forest Department has been placed on record which quotes the order of the High Court in W.P. No. 15200 of 2023 which in turn quotes the Supreme Court’s guidelines “prohibiting flights in zones such as National Parks, core and buffer zones of tiger reserves and bird sanctuaries”.
Since the matter relates to the Southern Zonal Bench, Chennai, therefore, the Bench transferred the matter to the Southern Zonal Bench for appropriate further action. Office is directed by the NGT to transfer the original record of the Application to the Southern Zonal Bench, Chennai and the matter is listed on 20.03.2024.