Uttarakhand HC orders CBI probe into ‘role of officials’ in poaching cases

The court ordered the probe after hearing an NGO’s petition regarding the seizure of tiger skins in Haridwar in March 2016. The tigers were reportedly from the Corbett Tiger Reserve and adjoining areas.

Updated: Sep 05, 2018 13:36:48

By Nihi Sharma

This undated photo released by Corbett Tiger Reserve, shows a tiger at the Corbett Tiger Reserve in Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand. The state HC ordered a probe into ‘official complicity’ in poaching cases following a petition by an NGO regarding seizure of tiger skins in 2016. The tigers were reportedly from the reserve an adjoining areas. (AP File Photo )

The Uttarakhand high court on Tuesday ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the alleged official complicity in poaching cases in the state.

“We, accordingly, request the CBI to hold a preliminary enquiry into all the cases of poaching in the state of Uttarakhand and to find out the complicity/involvement/ connivance/collusion of the serving officers/officials of the forest officers/officials...,” the court said. It asked the CBI to submit a preliminary report in a sealed cover in three months.

The court’s Nainital bench ordered the probe after hearing NGO Operation Eye of the Tiger India’s petition regarding the seizure of skins of five tigers in Haridwar in March 2016. The tigers were reportedly from the Corbett Tiger Reserve and adjoining areas.

The court separately banned the use of commercial vehicles inside the reserve’s Dhikala zone, which is popular with tourists because of tiger sightings.

A division bench of Justices Rajiv Sharma and Lok Pal Singh said the Centre’s order permitting only buses in Dhikala should be followed. It was hearing Ramnagar-based NGO Himalayan Yuva Gramin Vikas Sansthan’s Public Interest Litigation against the construction of hotels, resorts and other properties around Corbett.

The court said the Centre permitted 32 vehicles each in the reserve’s Jhirna and Bijrani zones. This will continue, it said.

The court had on August 3 restricted the number of commercial vehicles to 100 in Corbett and Rajaji Tiger Reserve. Later on August 9, the court modified its order and said 20 vehicles each would be permitted in Corbett’s five and Rajaji Tiger Reserve’s one zone.

Jhirna remains open for tourists around the year. Bijrani opens from October 15 to June 30. Dhikala is opened on June 15 and closes on November 15.

Corbett is home to nearly 240 tigers and 180 vehicles are permitted for day visits to the reserve. Additional 25 vehicles are allowed for tourists who stay overnight. Over 3 lakh tourists visit the Corbett Tiger Reserve annually and generate over Rs 9 crore revenue.

There are over 250 vehicle owners registered with the Corbett management.

Principal chief conservator of forests Jai Raj said that livelihood of locals was connected with the rides in Dhikala and other zones of Corbett. “We may approach the high court for a reconsideration.”

The court directed National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to file a supplementary affidavit explaining why tourists are permitted to stay overnight in protected forests while calling it a violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.

It ordered the NTCA to determine the forest cover loss along the southern boundary of Corbett within 6 months. The court said there were variations in figures quoted in two reports on the area. It directed the Uttarakhand police to constitute a Special Investigation Team to arrest poachers within three months.

First Published: Sep 05, 2018 13:36:48


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