ANI Photo | SC slams former Uttarakhand Forest Minister, says politician-bureaucrat nexus resulted in heavy damage to Corbett National Park

The Supreme Court on Wednesday slammed former Uttarakhand forest minister Harak Singh Rawat and said that the politician-bureaucrat nexus has resulted in heavy damage to the environment of Corbett National Park for some political and commercial gain.
The top court noted how political and bureaucratic nexus caused damage to the environment of reserved forest in Uttarakhand.
A bench of justices BR Gavai, Prashant Kumar Mishra and Sandeep Mehta called it a classic case that shows how the politicians and the bureaucrats have thrown the public trust doctrine in the dustbin.
“In the present case, it is clear beyond doubt that the then Forest Minister and Mr. Kishan Chand, DFO considered them to be the law unto themselves. They have, in blatant disregard of the law and for commercial purposes, indulged in the illicit felling of trees on a mass-scale to construct buildings on the pretext of promotion of tourism,” the court said.
“This is a classic case that shows how the politicians and the bureaucrats have thrown the public trust doctrine in the dustbin,” the court said.
The bench also noted various things like Kishan Chand, DFO was found to have been involved in serious irregularities at his earlier postings, and even though the Authorities had recommended not to post the said officer at any sensitive post, the then Forest Minister inserted his name in the proposal relating to transfer and postings at a sensitive post.
Not only that, even after the NTCA found Kishan Chand, involved in serious irregularities, and the Secretary (Forests) recommended placing him under suspension, the then Forest Minister not only overruled the recommendation of the Secretary (Forest) for suspension but also justified his proposed posting to the Lansdowne Division, the court noted.
“It was only after the then Forest Minister demitted his office, that Kishan Chand, DFO could be put under suspension. This is a case that shows how a nexus between a Politician and a Forest Officer has resulted in causing heavy damage to the environment for some political and commercial gain,” the court said.
“Even the recommendation of the Senior Officers of the Forest Department, the Vigilance Department, and the Police Department which objected to his posting at a sensitive post have been totally ignored. We are amazed at the audacity of the then Hon’ble Forest Minister and Mr. Kishan Chand, DFO in giving a total go-bye to the statutory provisions,” the court said.
“However, since the matter is pending investigation by the CBI, we do not propose to comment any further on the matter,” the court said.
The court directed the CBI to submit a report within three months. The court noted that illegal constructions and illicit felling of trees on a rampant scale like the one that happened in the Corbett National Park cannot be ignored and steps are required to prevent this.
The top court said that tiger safaris in the core area of the Jim Corbett National Park cannot be allowed and can ply till the peripheral area and buffer zone only subject to the conditions imposed by the Supreme Court constituted committee.
The court said that the Committee shall consider and recommend whether tiger safaris shall be permitted in the buffer area or fringe area and if such Safaris can be permitted, then what should be the guidelines for establishing such safaris.
The Committee shall take into consideration the factors like the approach must be ecocentrism and not anthropocentrism; the precautionary principle must be applied to ensure that the least amount of environmental damage is caused; the animals sourced shall not be from outside the Tiger Reserve.
Only injured, conflicted, or orphaned tigers may be exhibited as per the 2016 Guidelines and such Safaris should be proximate to the Rescue Centres.
The court suggested that the type of activities that should be permitted and prohibited in the buffer zone and fringe areas of the Tiger Reserve has to be eco-tourism.
The court directed the State of Uttarakhand to complete the disciplinary proceedings against the delinquent officers as expeditiously as possible and in any case, within a period of six months from Wednesday.
The status report in this regard shall be submitted to this Court within a period of three months, the court said. The court was dealing with the application filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal raising illegal construction in the tiger reserve forest.
“The tiger perishes without the forest and the forest perishes without its tigers. Therefore, the tiger should stand guard over the forest and the forest should protect all its tigers,” the court said.
This is how the importance of the tigers in the ecosystem has been succinctly described in ‘Mahabharata’,” the court said.
“The existence of the forest is necessary for the protection of tigers. In turn, if the tiger is protected, the ecosystem which revolves around him is also protected. The tiger represents the apex of the animal pyramid and the protection of their habitat must be a priority.
“A healthy tiger population is an indicator of sustainable development in the 13 tiger range countries,” he said.
In spite of such importance given to the tiger and many statutory provisions enacted for the conservation and protection of the tiger, the present case depicts a sorry state of affairs human greed has led to devastating one of the most celebrated abodes of tigers, that is the Corbett Tiger Reserve, the court said

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