PANAJI: The State government is in fix, as the three-month deadline set by the Bombay High Court at Goa to declare and notify the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary and its surrounding areas as tiger reserve, ends on Tuesday.
Though the State has filed an application before the Court seeking more time to implement the order, pending special leave petition in the Supreme Court, the matter was not heard or admitted by the Court till Monday.
The division bench of the High Court had on July 24 passed an order directing the State to declare Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary as tiger reserve within three months. The State, however, challenged the order before the Supreme Court, who refused to grant any interim stay but issued notices to the Union Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the Goa Foundation- the petitioner in the High Court.
The Apex Court is likely to hear the SLP on November 10. The State had prayed before the Supreme Court to “stay the effect and operation of the Impugned Judgment dated 24.07.2023 passed by the High Court of Judicature at Bombay, Goa Bench in PIL Writ Petition No 15 of 2022 until the final hearing and disposal of the present Special Leave Petition; and Pass such other order or orders as may be deemed fit and proper in the interest of justice”.
Meanwhile, Goa Foundation is contemplating filing a contempt petition against the State for failing to adhere to the three-month deadline set by the High Court.
The State government is of the clear view that with restrictions, par with those for Tiger Reserve already in force across wildlife sanctuaries, there is no need for an immediate notification to declare Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary as tiger reserve.
The High Court had also directed the State to prepare a tiger conservation plan as per the Wildlife Protection Act and submit it to the NTCA within three month.
State directed to take steps
State was directed to take emergent steps to ensure that there are no encroachments in the protected forest areas like Wildlife Sanctuary and National Parks pending notification of the Tiger Reserve, and even after that.
The government was also directed to determine and settle the rights and claims of the Scheduled Tribes (STs) and forest dwellers following the law as expeditiously and preferably within 12 months from the date of the order.