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`Treat wild animals as govt property for all purposes`

In a significant verdict, the Bombay High Court has ruled that wild animals including tiger should be treated as "government property for all purposes".

Nagpur: In a significant verdict, the Bombay High Court has ruled that wild animals including tiger should be treated as "government property for all purposes" and any
damage caused by them should be compensated by the Government.

If a wild animal causes loss to an agriculturist or a citizen, it would be the responsibility of the appropriate Government to make good the loss," a division bench comprising Justices Sharad Bobde and Prasanna Varale ruled, before directing the government to pay damages of Rs 3.84 lakh to a Wardha farmer whose crops were damaged due to presence of tigers in the area.

A farmer from neighbouring Wardha distrct, Baburao Aglawe (65), from Kinhala village of Seloo in (Wardha) contended that four tigers had caused damaged to his banana crop spread over five acres land during the period between April and May in 2010.

The tigers sneaked into the banana field and remained there for quite some time, thereby making difficult for him to visit the field. Since it was lush green cover and ample water
available the tigers almost made it their abode.

He applied for getting compensation to the tune of Rs 3.84 lakh along with 18 per cent interest which was recommended by Forest Department at Rs 48 per banana plant.
However State Finance department rejected it stating that they have no such policy.

The senior citizen contended that when he could get compensation when a tiger killed his cow then why not the same policy applies for the crops

"Though, the provision declares that the wild animals are government property, in the context of their protection from being hunted, we are of the view that the wild animals should be treated as government property for all purposes," the High Bench observed, adding that it would be open to a citizen to claim compensation for the loss caused by any wild animal, whether specifically referred to in any provision, government resolution (GR) or not.

Endorsing the petitioner`s stand, the judges said that they find from the compensation policy framed by the government that it enjoins farmers to protect the nests of vultures from destruction and claim compensation for any loss suffered by them on account of having so protected the nests.

There is no reason why same principle should not have been applied to the case of the petitioner, who protected the tigress who nurtured her cubs in an agricultural land of the
petitioner, they said.

Earlier, the forest department informed that the crops were not actually damaged by the wild beast but due to presence of a tigress and her three cubs. The labourers working there failed to water the crops on account of fear that led to their drying.

It was also pointed out that though the July 2, 2010 GR doesn`t have provision to provide compensation for damage due to tigers, the department had forwarded Aglawe`s case to the finance department as a special one.