The Gujarat High Court has asked an animal rights NGO to file a Right to Information (RTI) application to get a copy of the order by the Central and State Governments authorising the transfer of wild animals to a Reliance Industries Limited-supported zoo in Jamnagar.
As a result, the onus of proving that such authority was indeed given in August 2020 rests with the petitioner, who submitted that the authorisation letter was not in the public domain. In response, the court asked him to file an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Halar Utkarsh Samiti Trust, which filed public interest litigation seeking the court’s direction to restrain central and state zoo authorities from transferring wild animals to the private zoo and place on record the authorisation granted to the private zoo.
The petitioner, through its advocate Aditya Choksi, submitted before a division bench of Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice AJ Shastri that the zoo — Greens Zoological Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Jamnagar — had been given recognition under the Wild Life Protection Act Section 38 (h) on August 17, 2020, by the Central Zoo Authority.
And according to the law, “There is no provision with respect to giving recognition to a private zoo and that recently there have been reports that 94 wild animals which are scheduled animals were brought from Morocco to Jamnagar,” the petitioner said.
According to the petitioner, the zoo was granted recognition under the category of the mini zoo under Rule 9 of the Recognition of Zoo Rules, 2009.
However, Choksi alleged that the recognition had been granted without satisfying any of the criteria under Rule 10, which pertains to the interests of protection and conservation of wild animals. He also pointed out that the chief wildlife warden of Gujarat requested central zoo authorities for the recognition of the zoo “within 15 days” after a proposal was made by RIL for the same.
The petitioner submitted that the duty to protect the life of wild animals could not be transferred to a private body.
When the court inquired and sought to see the August 2020 order of authorisation given to the zoo, Choksi pointed out that it was not in the public domain. The court asked Choksi that he could attempt to procure it by filing a requisite application under the RTI Act.
Not only this, the bench asserted that only after he produced the order would the court examine the petitioner’s request and maintainability of the petition.
The court in its order, dictated in the open court, recorded, “…In the entire case, the petitioner is resting upon the recognition dated 17.8.2020. However, the copy of the said order is not placed on record. In that view of the matter, we grant liberty to the petitioner to produce the same.”