Bombay HC: State Govt’s Duty to Protect Wild Animals and Restrict Them in Safety Zone, Protect Citizens

Bombay High Court LAW INSIDER

Priyanka Singh

Published on: September 27, 2022 at 20:52 IST

The Bombay High Court, on Monday, stated that the State is responsible to protect the wild animals and restrict them to the safety zone, creating distance between public and animals, also obliging them to protect the citizens from such wild animal attacks, calling it a “twin obligation”.

The division bench of Justice Gauri Godse and Justice GS Patel also held that in case of injury to public by any wild animal, the State was to be held liable for the protection of life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

In a writ petition filed by a woman, the Court passed the aforementioned judgment where a wild boar had attacked her husband while killing him and the State denied her any compensation for the death.

The petitioner’s husband died in a road accident caused by a wild boar in February 2019. After which an FIR was registered and a spot panchnama was conducted on the same day as the accident.

The spot panchnama recorded an attack by a wild boar which had collided with the two-wheeler of the victim, resulting in a fatal accident.

Her application of compensation of Rs.10 Lakh, dated 28th July, 2018, was rejected by the Regional Forest Officer on grounds of delay of submission of application and that, the panchnama was not conducted within three days of the accident in presence of forest officer.

After the State Minister for the appropriate department failed to respond her, she approached the Bombay High Court.

On behalf of the petitioner, Senior Advocate R. S. Apte submitted that the denial of compensation and the act by police disregarding State protocols was unfair towards the victim.

On behalf of the State Government, Additional Government Pleader Milind More contended that the compensation is to not be granted as cause of death is not due to attack by a wild boar, but by a head injury caused by the road accident.

The Court observed that there was no copy of the Government Resolution produced by the State Government which mandated the submission of information of accident was to be given under 48 hours.

The Court also added that the local police was obligated to inform the nearest forest office about the accident.

The reason for rejecting application of Petitioner recorded by Respondent No. 2 is that in the present case the officer who conducted panchnama was below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police and Range Forest Officer. There is nothing produced on record to support this reason.”

The Court noted the fact that the cause of death was none other than the attack by the wild boar and that, the refusal of the petitioner’s application was unjustified, quoting that the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, created an obligation of the State Government to protect wild animals, and it is an obligation of the State Government as well to protect the lives of the citizens as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The Court opined that even without the 2018 Government Resolution, it is clear that the petitioner was entitled to compensation and that Court directed the State to pay an additional compensation of Rs. 50,000 for litigation costs and the excessive steps the petitioner had to go through in order to put the case in limelight.

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