Supreme Court's Wildlife Conservation Order for Jim Corbett Park

A picturesque view of Jim Corbett National Park, the oldest natural park in Asia, located in Uttarakhand, India
Supreme Court's Wildlife Conservation Order for Jim Corbett Park

  • Date and Ruling: On March 6, 2024, the Supreme Court of India rebuked the Uttarakhand government for its involvement in tree felling and unauthorized construction within the Jim Corbett National Park. The court imposed a prohibition on tiger safaris within the park's core areas, restricting them solely to peripheral and buffer zones.
  • Formation of Evaluation Committee: The Supreme Court mandated the establishment of a committee to assess the viability of allowing tiger safaris in buffer or fringe areas of national parks nationwide. This committee is tasked with proposing measures to mitigate environmental damage and seeking reimbursement from responsible parties.
  • Petition and Judicial Stand: Justices BR Gavai, PK Mishra, and Sandeep Mehta presided over a petition filed by environmental activist and lawyer Gaurav Bansal. Bansal contested the Uttarakhand government's plans to establish a tiger safari and zoo within the national park's boundaries. The court emphasized the adverse impact of establishing a tiger safari in the core area and stressed the importance of adhering to established wildlife conservation guidelines.
  • Censure of Officials and Investigation: The Supreme Court strongly criticized former Uttarakhand Forest Minister Harak Singh Rawat and former divisional forest officer Kishan Chand for engaging in illegal construction and tree felling within the Corbett Tiger Reserve. The bench condemned the officials for disregarding the public trust doctrine and exploiting natural resources for commercial gain under the guise of promoting tourism. The apex court has called for a status report on illegal activities within the Corbett Tiger Reserve within three months and initiated a CBI investigation into the matter.
  • Previous Stance on Tiger Safaris: In January 2024, the Supreme Court dismissed the National Tiger Conservation Authority's proposal to establish tiger safaris within national parks, advocating for an "animal-centric" approach over a "tourism-centric" one. The bench expressed concerns over the NTCA's 2019 guidelines advocating for the creation of tiger safaris in buffer and fringe areas of tiger reserves to alleviate tourism pressure from core tiger habitats.
  • Emphasis on Wildlife Conservation: The Supreme Court's stance underscores the importance of prioritizing the welfare and conservation of wildlife within national parks. The bench questioned the rationale behind establishing zoos within wildlife sanctuaries, suggesting that such facilities could obstruct the natural movement of animals and potentially spread diseases among them.

This directive reflects the court's commitment to protecting the ecological balance and biodiversity of India's national parks, with a particular focus on the sensitive ecosystem of the Jim Corbett National Park.

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