The Kerala High directed the respondents to ensure that the steps taken for redressing the issues related to Human – Wildlife conflict be implemented by the State Government and the Forest Officials in its letter and spirit.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly disposed of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Joseph Tajet , the Parliamentary party leader of the opposition parties and is also an Advocate practicing in Thrissur District.
The reliefs sought for by the petitioner in the writ petition are as follows:
i. Issue a writ of mandamus or any other appropriate writ, order or direction commanding the respondents to take effective measures to control the Human Elephant Conflicts within the territorial jurisdiction of respondents within a time frame to be fixed by the High Court.
ii. Direct the respondents to frame appropriate guidelines/criteria for the protection of Human life in the areas sharing boundaries with forest in the Thrissur District.
According to the petitioner, due to the constant attacks of wild elephants, agricultural crops are destroyed and their livelihood is lost and life becomes unbearable. In addition to the same, it is contended that the people in the said area are in a state of panic after elephants raided the habitable residential areas in Varandarappilly Panchayat and in fact, killed two plantation workers in recent days.
It is also pointed out that in the last few years, six people have been killed in wild elephant attacks in the area, and agricultural produce and properties worth millions were lost. Therefore, according to the petitioner, if the State Government is not taking appropriate action in order to prevent the wild animals encroaching into the residential and agricultural areas, the residents of the locality would be put to serious prejudice, untold miseries and irreparable injuries. In that view of the matter, making Elephant Proof Trenches (EPT) and electric fencing are the only ways to protect this.
It is also submitted that in spite of the earnest efforts made by the petitioner and the others, the respondents have not taken any action so as to ventilate the grievances of the petitioner.
Petitioner has also produced various news reports with respect to the elephant attack and the consequences occurred thereto. Therefore, petitioner seeks direction to the State Government to make Elephant Proof Trenches and electric fencing through the entire stretch in order to protect the life and interest of the people residing in the area in question.
The Divisional Forest Officer, Chalakudy has filed a very detailed counter affidavit refuting the allegations raised by the petitioner. It is also submitted that the averments made in the writ petition are exaggerated.
However, it is stated that there have been incidents of human – elephant conflicts in Chalakudy, Thrissur, Vazhachal and Malayattoor Forest Divisions and Peechi Wildlife Division. But it is stated that taking into account the said aspects and the destruction of the agricultural produce of the residents of the area in question, action is initiated which is described in detail in the counter affidavit.
Therefore, according to the Government, all possible effective initiatives and steps are taken by the State for redressing the issues related to Human – Wildlife conflict in accordance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Union of India, New Delhi.
That apart, it is submitted that further proposals of Special Rapid Response Team and Solar Fencing along State Highway with crossing points for elephants have been submitted by the Chalakudy Forest Division, which are produced as Exts.R4(a) and R4(b). Therefore, it is submitted that since steps are already taken by the State Government in order to ventilate the grievance put forth by the petitioner, directions sought in the writ petition are not required.
While considering the PIL , the Bench observed that the projections made by the petitioner in the petition is admitted to a substantial extent by the respondents. However, it is submitted that taking into consideration the difficulties faced by the people of the locality and the destruction caused by wild elephants, necessary steps are taken in order to eradicate the menace. From the counter affidavit filed by the Divisional Forest Officer, it is definite and unambiguous that adequate steps are taken by the State Government and the Forest Department. Therefore, the Court of the view that a direction to implement the steps taken effectively would suffice the situation.
In that view of the matter, the Bench directed the respondents to ensure that the steps taken as extracted above and others if any, and the Government Orders issued to eradicate the human – wildlife conflict be implemented by the State Government and the Forest Officials in its letter and spirit.
Accordingly, the Bench further directed the respondents to ensure that the Government Orders in respect of the installation of electric fencing, etc., are carried out strictly at the earliest possible time, where it is not already done in the area in question.