The Bombay High Court has taken suo-moto cognizance of forest department's decision to shift wild elephants in Gadchiroli forest to some Zoo.

The Bench of Justice Sunil B. Shukre and Justice Valmiki Sa Menezes has observed thus "Presence of wild elephants adds to biodiversity of Gadchiroli forest and, therefore, it is the duty of the State to do everything to preserve the population of wild elephants in Gadchiroli. Any move to shift them to a Zoo would result in harming the biodiversity, and would be against the spirit of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002."

This comes after Senior Advocate J.T. Gilda had informed the Court that the proposed move of the Forest Department to shift wild elephants in Gadchiroli forest to Zoo is contrary to the directions issued by the Supreme Court.

He submitted that these elephants cannot be taken out of Gadchiroli area without proper resolution having been passed by the concerned village panchayat.

Terming the issue as a matter of seminal importance, the Court observed that the issue being raised was a fundamental issue regarding rights of wild animals within the society dominated by human beings in general and within the framework of the Constitution of India in particular.

"While it is true that the animals and the wild animals not being bestowed with similar mental faculties including faculty of speech as human being, it is difficult for human society to seek consent of the affected animals before they are forcibly removed from one area to another area but, that should not deter a human being from devising some method where rights of the wild animals against their forcible removal and in respect of other matters are equally respected as that of man and a balance is struck between the rights of man and rights of animals including wild animals.", the Court observed.

The Court noted that it was necessary for it to take suo-moto cognizance of the issue for its appropriate resolution.

Therefore, the High Court directed the registry to place the issue before it on September 8, 2022, for further consideration.

Cause Title- Suo Moto Public Interest Litigation No. 05 of 2022

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