New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday rapped the Centre for taking a U-turn and urging the court to review its July 24 interim order banning tourism in core areas of tiger reserves.
On Tuesday, citing concerns expressed by states, the Centre had sought the Supreme Court`s permission to review existing guidelines for conservation of tigers in the wake of its order banning tourism in core areas of tiger reserves across the country.
It claimed that the ban on tourism could result in not only loss of livelihood to several persons but also pose threat to wildlife and forests in the country.
Hearing the Centre`s affidavit, a bench of justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar put some searching questions and asked the government to present the plan that it intends to implement for tourism in the tiger reserves.
"What are you going to do to save tigers? Earlier it was 13,000, now it has come down to 1,200. You are more worried about the commercial activities," the bench told the Centre`s counsel Waseem Ahmed Kadiri.
“You are trying to make up. You have done it (guidelines) after due deliberation. We want to know on what basis you want to do it? What is the data available?,” asked the court which had passed interim ban orders on the guidelines framed by National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
"What have you done for the tiger project? What about the core areas you have promised to take steps for? The Union of India has not done anything except filling affidavits. Why did you initially recommend the ban?," the court asked the counsel.
The additional affidavit jointly filed by the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Ministry of Environment and Forests said the earlier guidelines framed by it on the basis of which the apex court had passed the interim ban orders needs to be reviewed.
The SC today also extended the interim ban on tourism in tiger reserve core areas till next hearing on August 29.
Under the existing guidelines and rules of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the states have to notify the list of core and buffer areas of tiger reserves in their respective jurisdictions.
As per the guidelines, buffer zones are the areas which lie in the periphery of core areas, also known as critical tiger habitats. Tiger breeding takes place in core areas which are meant to be kept free of any disturbance, including tourism.
The buffer zones constitute the fringe areas of tiger reserves up to a distance of 10 kms. There are an estimated over 1,700 tigers in the country.
A bench of justices Swatanter Kumar and Ibrahim Kalifulla had earlier warned of initiation of contempt proceedings and imposition of exemplary costs on states which fail to notify the buffer zones in their respective tiger reserves.
The apex court had said despite its earlier directions of April 4 and July 10, several states have failed to notify buffer zones in their respective reserves to regulate commercialisation of revenue land around big cat habitats and help preserve the endangered species.
The apex court had also imposed a cost of Rs 10,000 each on Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Maharashtra and Jharkhand for not complying with its directions.
"We make it clear that till final directions are issued by this court, the core zones or core areas in the tiger reserves will not be used for tourism," the bench had said.
The apex court passed the order while dealing with a PIL filed by conservationist Ajay Dubey demanding ban on commercial tourism activities in core areas of the tiger reserves.
With Agency Inputs