Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Supreme Court dismisses review plea on shifting of Gir lions

Supreme Court dismisses review plea on shifting of Gir lions

Curative petition is now the only legal resort left with the state govt to try and retain its pride of Asiatic Lions.

While the chief minister may be roaring loud across election rallies in Madhya Pradesh, the Supreme Court, however, turned his government's roar, seeking a review of its April order on translocation of Asiatic Lions, into a whimper recently. It dismissed the state government's plea to re-evaluate the apex court's April order to shift the big cats from Gir to MP's Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary. Undoubtedly, the court's decision dealt yet another blow to Gujarat's hopes of not having to part with its pride.

The SC had in April dismissed Gujarat government's petition opposing translocation of lions. It had noted that the species was under threat of extinction and needed a second home. The court had given six months time for the translocation. However, the government had filed a review petition in the Court, which too has now been dismissed. "The review petition was rejected by the Supreme Court in the first week of November. The Bench did not find merit in the petition and rejected it," said a senior official.

HK Dash, additional chief secretary of forest & environment department, confirmed that the review petition has been disposed of by the Supreme Court, but said that they haven't received the detailed order.

Asked about the future strategy of the government as far as the case is concerned, Dash said, "The state government will take the required action after holding consultations with experts in the field."

Officials said that the state government still has the option to file a curative petition before the Supreme Court as a last legal resort to avoid parting with the big cat.

According to officials, there are around 400 Asiatic lions in the Gir sanctuary currently.

The search for a second home for Asiatic lions was started in the early 1990s over concerns of losing the entire lion population to an epidemic or a natural calamity. The Wildlife Institute of India had carried out a survey in 1993-94 and zeroed in on Palpur Kuno for translocating some of the lions. Even as MP readied the sanctuary, Gujarat was reluctant in sharing the lions, as a result of which, the dispute landed in court. In court, Gujarat government had opposed shifting of lions to MP, saying they would not be safe there as the central state had failed to conserve its own tiger population in the Panna reserve forest. It had also contended that it had sufficient infrastructure and will to conserve the lion population and it was not advisable to translocate them. However, the government seems to have been left with limited choice after the twin setbacks in apex court.

After the Guj govt lost the battle in the SC in April, its manner of handling the issue had drawn criticism from various quarters. Many wildlife experts had opined that Gujarat's pitch in Apex court had shifted from scientific arguments to emotional ones, particularly by equating the Asiatic Lions with Gujarati Pride.

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