Move to protect official’s actions in elephant corridor
The Supreme Court on Wednesday barred the Tamil Nadu government from transferring the Nilgiris District Collector without the court’s prior permission.
A Bench led by Justice Madan B. Lokur passed the order to protect the District Collector from any backlash in the wake of a particularly bold report and subsequent initiative to seal illegal resorts in the ecologically fragile elephant corridor in the Masinagudi area near the Mudumalai National Park (near the Sigur plateau) in the Nilgiris. The area is on the route from Ooty to Mysuru.
On August 9, the Supreme Court had ordered the Tamil Nadu government to seal or close 27 illegal resorts operating in the corridor, after making an observation that “elephants are our heritage.”
The report submitted by the Nilgiris District Collector contained detailed information on a total of 39 resorts operating in the area.
The warning bells that the District Collector, J. Innocent Divya, a 2009 batch IAS officer, may face a backlash in the form of a transfer was sounded by advocate A.D.N. Rao, representing the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee.
“Since the assistance of Collector would be required in deciding the case, the officer shall not be transferred without leave [permission] from the court,” Justice Lokur directed.
The Bench also allowed the State to file a report on the removal of electrified fencing around the resorts.
The court was hearing a 1996 PIL filed by A. Rangarajan, wherein directions were issued that no construction would be allowed in the elephant corridor mentioned in the report of the Elephant Task Force titled as ‘Gajah’.
The elephant corridor in the Nilgiris is 22.6 km long and 1.5 km wide. It is the vital link for about 900 elephants to move between the Eastern and the Western Ghats.