New Delhi: Holding that protecting wildlife is the constitutional duty of the Centre and states, the Supreme Court has directed Chhattisgarh to forthwith take measures to protect endangered Asian wild buffaloes and to ensure they are not subjected to inter-breeding so that their genetic purity is preserved.
"All effective steps should be taken by the state to protect the Asian wild buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) which is declared as a state animal by Chhattisgarh.
"The state would also take immediate steps to ensure that inter-breeding between wild and domestic buffaloes does not take place and the genetic purity of the wild species is maintained," the apex court said in a judgement.
A special forest bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and C K Prasad gave the ruling on amicus curiae and counsel P S Narasimha`s application for preserving the endangered wildlife species.
Quoting Article 51 A(g) of the Constitution, the apex court said it is the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment, including the wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.
"By the 42nd Amendment Act 1976 of the Constitution, `Forests` was added as Entry 17A in the Concurrent List and the `protection of wild animals and birds` was added as Entry
"Consequently, both the central and state governments/UTs are mandated with the responsibility of protection and conservation of wildlife and its habitat.
"Human-wildlife conflict is fast becoming a critical threat to the survival of many endangered species, like wild buffalo, elephants, tiger, lion etc. Such conflicts affect not only its population but has also broadened environmental impacts on ecosystem equilibrium and biodiversity conservation," said Justice Radhakrishnan, while writing the judgement for the bench.
The apex court said "forest" and "protection of animals and birds" are in the concurrent list of the Constitution and it is the "fundamental duty of every citizen of India" under Article 51A(g) of the Constitution to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife.
Interpreting the Wildlife Protection Act, the apex court said wild buffalo has been included as item No. 41, Part I of Schedule I of the Act.
"Once it is included in Schedule I, the State Board for Wildlife has to advise the state government in the selection and management of the areas to be declared as protected areas, in the formulation of policy for protection and conservation of the wildlife etc., as per Section 8 of the Act," the bench said.
The bench rejected Chhattisgarh government`s argument that it had an action plan which could not be implemented due to lack of funding by the central Government.
"Steps taken by the state of Chhattisgarh to preserve and conserve the wild buffalo, which was declared as a state animal, is far from satisfactory.
"The state is also directed to take immediate steps to undertake intensive research and monitor the wild buffalo population in Udanti Wildlife Sanctuary and other areas where the wild buffalo may still be found, including preparing them their genetic profile for future reference," the bench said.