SC dismisses West Bengal's plan to sterilise jumbos

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ticked off the West Bengal government decision to give “contraceptive shots” to elephants to check their population, saying that such a step was regressive and condemnable.

A bench of justices Dipak Misra and Vikramjit Sen restrained the state government from taking any such decision while agreeing to consider a slew of suggestions to prevent death of pachyderms due to train hit.

During the hearing on a PIL by journalist Shakti Prasad Nayak for direction to the Railways to lower speed of trains in elephant corridors, the court was surprised after a counsel referred to a news report stating the Mamata Banerjee government would sterilise elephants to check their population growth.

“West Bengal has decided to take a regressive step by introducing contraceptive so that elephants do not procreate. If it is so, it is absolutely impermissible and condemnable. We restrain the authorities in West Bengal to prevent any kind of sterilisation or any method to check natural procreation process of elephants and wildlife,” the court said.
The court asked the state government’s counsel to clarify the exact position.

Before posting the matter for September 23, the court also took exception to absence of a counsel from the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) in the hearing. “The presence of MoEF counsel is absolutely necessary regard being the safety of elephants and wildlife. Unfortunately, the MoEF is found in slumber. We don’t appreciate it,” the bench said, directing the MoEF secretary to be present on the next date of hearing.

“The depleting rate of elephants in the country has been a matter of concern for everyone who has an interest in environment. Needless to say that it is a necessity to sustain environment and ecological balance. In the present era, sustenance of species is a categorical imperative. Neither the MoEF nor the Railways can take it as a matter of non-concern by not taking steps,” the bench said. The court directed the MoEF and the Railways to file an affidavit on steps taken to check elephants being hit on the tracks.

Among the suggestions, the court asked the MoEF and the Railways to identify animal path corridors for putting in place trenches to prevent elephant deaths. It also asked the Railways to make underpass in the animal corridors and reduce the speed of trains.
The court also directed the Railways to keep train speed in the 168-km long alignment between Alipurduar and Siliguri, having the highest concentration of elephants, at 25 km per hour after petitioner’s counsel Sanjeeb Panigrahi pointed out that the MoEF had already made a suggestion for it.

Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Railways, contended that keeping the trains at low speed would affect movement of trains and transport of goods to the North -eastern region.

The court suggested him to take instruction from the MoEF to make a comprehensive stand on the subject.

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