SC to hear next week plea seeking direction to protect forests & wildlife from fires in Uttarakhand

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New Delhi, Jan 4 (PTI) The Supreme Court Monday said it would hear next week a plea which has sought directions to the Environment Ministry and the Uttarakhand government to take urgent steps to protect forests, wildlife and birds from forest fire in the state.

The plea, which came up for hearing before a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde, has also sought that the entire animal kingdom, including avian and aquatic, be declared as legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.

The bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, initially told the petitioner to approach the state's high court with his grievance.

“You go to the high court. You have prayed for relief with regard to Uttarakhand. You go to the high court there,” the bench told advocate Rituparn Uniyal, the petitioner in the case.

During the hearing conducted through video-conferencing, Uniyal told the apex court that the high court had in 2016 passed directions on the issue related to forest fire.

He said that an appeal against the high court order is already pending in the top court.

“We will take it up next week,” said the bench.

In his plea, Uniyal has sought a direction to the authorities to make pre-fire arrangements and frame a policy to prevent forest fires in Uttarakhand.

“It is the need of the hour that the concept of legal/juristic personality needs a wide interpretation so as to include in it the whole ecosystem with both biotic and abiotic components of environment. In Hindu Mythology, every animal is associated with god. Animals breathe like us and have emotions, intelligence, culture, language, memory and co-operation,” the plea has said.

It said that forest fires in Uttarakhand have been a regular feature and every year it causes loss to the “forest ecosystem, diversity of flora and fauna and economic wealth” and also have adverse effect on glaciers.

“Forest and wildlife are the most important and precious natural resources and play significant role in the human life and environment. Forests are socially and environmentally inter-linked with the people in the hilly areas and play important role in the economic welfare and development of the region,” it said.

It has alleged that despite a consistent history of forests fire in the state, “the ignorance, inactiveness, negligence and unreadiness” of the concerned authorities have rendered a great loss to the forests, wildlife and birds in Uttarakhand which has caused ecological imbalance.

The plea has referred to media reports and other studies on the issue and said that forest fires in the state are affecting the fragile ecosystem and destroying the invaluable forest resources.

“The respondents (concerned authorities) have failed to understand the gravity of the situation and to bring the situation under control. Uttarakhand has a disastrous history of forest fires and the destruction of flora and fauna which speaks for itself. The ignorance and unreadiness on the part of the respondents has caused the citizens to suffer imbalance in the environment,” it said. The plea said that residents of areas, where forest fire occurs, have also complained about problems in breathing and burning sensation due to smoke in the environment. PTI ABA MNL SJK SA