Supreme Court pulls up Uttarakhand ex-Forest Minister, former DFO over tree felling at Corbett : The Tribune India

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Supreme Court pulls up Uttarakhand ex-Forest Minister, former DFO over tree felling at Corbett

Supreme Court pulls up Uttarakhand ex-Forest Minister, former DFO over tree felling at Corbett

Harak Singh Rawat, Former Uttarakhand Forest Minister. File photo



Tribune News Service

Satya Prakash

New Delhi, March 6

Amazed at their audacity, the Supreme Court on Wednesday slammed former Uttarakhand Forest Minister Harak Singh Rawat and former Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Kishan Chand for allowing illegal construction and felling of trees at the Corbett Tiger Reserve, saying the “public trust doctrine” has been thrown into the waste bin.

“Since the matter is pending investigation by the CBI, we do not propose to comment any further on the matter. We have also observed that this cannot be done by two persons only. Many other persons must have been involved,” said a Bench led by Justice BR Gavai, directing the CBI to file a status report in three months.

Public trust doctrine thrown into bin

This is a case where bureaucrats and politicians have thrown public trust doctrine into the waste bin. —SC Bench

The top court chose to keep the proceedings pending so that it could monitor the steps taken by the authorities as well as the CBI probe.

The court also ordered setting up of a committee to decide if tiger safaris could be allowed in the buffer or fringe areas of national parks.

“This is a case where bureaucrats and politicians have thrown public trust doctrine into the waste bin,” said the Bench, which also included Justice PK Mishra and Justice Sandeep Mehta.

Rawat, who was the Forest Minister in the BJP government in Uttarakhand in 2021, is currently with the Congress.

“They (Rawat and Chand) have, in blatant disregard of the law and for commercial purposes, indulged in mass felling of trees to construct buildings on the pretext of promotion of tourism,” the Bench said.

Highlighting the need to bring the culprits to face the proceedings, the Bench said, “We are of the considered view that the state cannot run away from its responsibilities to restore the damage done to the forest. The state, apart from preventing such acts in the future, should take immediate steps for restoration of the damage already done; undertake an exercise for determining the valuation of the damage done and recover it from the persons found responsible for causing such damage.”

The verdict came on a petition filed by environment activist-lawyer Gaurav Bansal alleging destruction of the tiger habitat and a decline in the tiger density in the Lansdowne Forest Division due to illegal construction in the Pakhro Tiger Safari and illegal felling of thousands of trees.

Spread over an area of 1,288.31 sq km, the Corbett Tiger Reserve is known for its biodiversity. The density of tigers here is the highest in the world. Famous for the Royal Bengal Tiger, it remains closed for tourists during monsoon and opens in October-November.

“The safaris which are already existing and the one under construction at Pakhrau will not be disturbed. However, insofar as the safari at Pakhrau is concerned, we direct the state of Uttarakhand to relocate or establish a rescue centre in its vicinity,” the Bench ordered.

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#Environment #Supreme Court #Uttarakhand


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