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Sarus Crane extinction: Bombay HC directs Gondia district collector, other officers to be present in court on January 5

Amicus Curiae Radhika Bajaj informed the High Court that the carcass of one Sarus Crane was found near Gondia recently. She invites the attention of the High Court to a news item published in a local daily on 14.12.2021.

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The Bombay High Court has directed the Collector of Gondia district and other officers to remain present before the High Court on January 5, 2022 for the hearing of a suo motu PIL on the survival of Sarus Crane as a bird species in India.

The Division Bench of Justice Sunil B. Shukre and Justice Anil L. Pansare observed the petition gives details of the dwindling habitat of Sarus Crane and the challenges faced by the authorities in conserving and protecting this species of bird, which is stated to be the tallest flying bird in the world. The petition also stated that the only habitat of this bird left in Maharashtra is in the districts of Gondia and Bhandara.

Radhika Bajaj, Amicus Curiae, submitted that even the small habitat of Sarus Crane is now under serious threat. She informed the High Court that the carcass of one Sarus Crane was found near Gondia recently. She invited the attention of the High Court to a news item published in a local daily on December 14, 2021.

On going through the news item, the Bench noted that the decomposed carcass of an adult Sarus Crane was found near Paraswada Lake, Gondia. It is further noted by the Court that this bird was noticed by the locals as being in an injured condition a few days before the sad news came.

“The most disturbing part of this news is that another partner of the dead Sarus Crane bird, if alive, would also die as the Sarus Crane birds are known to live in pairs with the same partner over their whole life. It is not known as to what were the causes of the death of Sarus Crane. This loss, in our opinion, is a further blow to the dwindling population of Sarus Crane,”

-observed the Bench.

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In this case, notice was issued by the High Court on September 15, 2021. In a matter like this, it was expected by the High Court that the respondents who represent the State Government will file their reply promptly but they have not. The Government Pleader is also absent on Wednesday. Later on, however,  a Government Pleader appeared. They have no instructions as to why so far no reply is filed at least by the forest authorities. None of these authorities is present before the High Court.

This approach, on the part of the respondents, the High Court is pained to note, is not consistent with the goal of conservation and preservation of environment and forest and, therefore, the Court directed the Collector, Conservator of Forests, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Deputy Conservator of Forests of Gondia District and Executive Engineer of Gondia Irrigation Division to remain present before the High Court on January 5, 2022 at 2.30 p.m.

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At this stage, the Government Pleader pleaded that as on next date reply would be filed, it may not be necessary for the officers to remain present. The Bench replied that this not being an adversarial litigation, it was expected of the officers to assist the Court and the cause in public interest.

“But, this Court is yet to see the assistance coming forth and to worsen the situation, another Sarus Crane has bitten the dust. Then, there are no clear instructions to learned Government Pleader about the date by which the reply would be filed. In these circumstances, we deem the presence of officers necessary. The request is rejected,”

-ordered the High Court.

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