Is Gujarat serious about keeping the lion's share?
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
Gujarat appears to have already handed over the Asiatic lions to assertive neighbour Madhya Pradesh (MP) on a platter. This time when the petition came up for hearing in the supreme court, the Gujarat government had made up its mind to seek four weeks' time to file a counter-affidavit.
The Gujarat government chose to send a junior counsel to represent it and seek a date even as no senior forest officer was present during the hearing. On the other hand, MP had not only senior forest officers but also a senior counsel like Soli Sorabjee present in the court.
A Delhi-based NGO, Biodiversity Conservation Trust had filed a litigation in the supreme court urging it to direct the Gujarat government to cooperate with Madhya Pradesh in transferring the lions to Kuno-Palpur.
It is always understood that whenever the time is sought in such legal matters, the bench can put forth some questions. The junior counsel representing Gujarat, probably did not carry any brief.
When he was asked as to why Gujarat was opposing the move to give lions from the wild to MP, he replied that the area did not have the required prey base. So far, the state has been opposing the move to hand over the lions on ground that two specie of big cats cannot survive together (MP is known for its tigers), and earlier attempts to shift lions have failed. Forest officials here say that the standing counsel who had been representing the state in the case should have taken the case seriously especially when Sorabjee was on the other side. But this counsel seemed not to have any directive from the government.
Senior officials also remained away from the hearing — they were too busy with the Vibrant Gujarat International Kite Festival.
Former principal chief conservator of forests, GA Patel told TOI, "Senior officials should have remained present in the court. When a junior goes wrong it was the duty of the officer to correct him and argue on the technical points like lions and tigers cannot stay together and also the earlier efforts to translocate lions had failed. Also the senior counsel representing Gujarat should have taken care to brief his junior."
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