SC refuses to entertain plea seeking protection of elephant corridors in Kerala

 The Supreme Court Wednesday refused to entertain a PIL seeking reliefs including protecting elephant corridors by notifying them as national park in Kerala to lessen the human-elephant conflicts (HEC) and bringing a rice-eating tusker, ‘Arikkomban’, back to its natural habitat at Chinnakanal in the state.

The rice-eating rogue’ jumbo Arikkomban’ has been at the centre of various litigations in the high court over its translocation. The tusker was recently tranquilised, captured and translocated by the Tamil Nadu government in a forest in that state.

A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chaandrachud and justices P S Narasimha and Manoj Misra took note of the submissions of lawyer Priyanka Prakash, appearing for a PIL petitioner, and asked her to approach the Kerala High Court or avail other appropriate remedy under the law.

“The Kerala High Court is dealing with the issue. There are enough petitions pending and you can intervene in any of them,” the bench said.

The lawyer, appearing for PIL petitioners including C R Neelakandan, said there has been “erroneous” translocation of Arikkomban’ , and the Tamil Nadu government had to incur Rs incur Rs 80 lakh on the exercise.

“This is the problem. These PILs are motivated and are filed at the behest of someone especially concerned with translocation of Arikamban elephant. We are not inclined to interfere as there are alternate remedies available under law,” the bench said.

The bench, however, allowed the lawyer to approach the authorities concerned with the plea or the appropriate judicial forum with the grievances.

The PIL sought a direction to the authorities to “restore a traditional elephant migratory path in the state and reduce the misery of persons and the elephants involved”.

“It has become necessary to protect the elephant corridors by notifying them as National Park or Elephant sanctuaries, by taking appropriate measures to relocate the human settlements and to lay down a comprehensive guideline including long term measures to be followed by the executive officers, state governments and the Union government in the situations of HEC incidents,” the plea said.

It sought a direction to the Kerala government to define the traditional migration path of elephants from Annamalai to Periyar via Chinnakanal after conducting an extensive study on the area that is to be preserved including the possible extent, the challenges and the way ahead, and to and declare the same as elephant corridor’ under the Elephant Project'”.

Earlier, the Kerala High Court had dismissed another plea seeking handover of tusker Arikkomban to Kerala and its translocation to deep forests in the state.

It had declined to interfere with the Tamil Nadu government’s move to tranquilise, capture and translocate the elephant, which recently forayed into a residential area there and caused panic among the people in a forest range of that state.

The high court had dismissed the plea, saying there were no factual or legal averments in it that the actions of Tamil Nadu government were illegal or harmful to the wild elephant in any manner.

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It said no grounds were indicated in the plea for interference by the Kerala High Court and suggested that the petitioner move the Madras High Court if he was aggrieved by the Tamil Nadu Chief Wildlife Warden’s decision to tranquilise, capture and translocate the tusker.

Known for its love of rice and ration shop raids in Kerala, Arikomban was last month translocated to the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the state, before it strayed into Cumbum town in Tamil Nadu’s Theni district on May 27.

Subsequently, the Tamil Nadu government formed a team of experienced forest officials under the field director of Srivilliputhur Megamalai Tiger Reserve (SMTR) to nab the wild tusker.

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