CHENNAI: Take immediate action to check elephant deaths on railway tracks or face the consequence, the Madras high court warned the central government and the Railways on Friday.
“We would not mind summoning the highest official concerned and make them vicariously liable for the deaths of jumbos,” a division bench of Justice V Bharathidasan and Justice N Sathish Kumar said.
The court then directed the Centre to come up with a proper plan to prevent such incidents and protect the elephants. It should submit the plan by December 20.
This apart, the court also appointed senior advocate P H Arvind Pandian as amicus curiae to assist the court in the issue.
The court passed the order while hearing a batch of PILs filed since 2016 to check elephant poaching and deaths due to train accidents.
When the pleas came up for hearing, the petitioners informed the court that in the last five years alone over 13,000 elephants had been killed in various such incidents.
Earlier, pointing to a detailed order passed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in July, Arvind Pandian said that the tribunal had directed the Central Monitoring Committee constituted by the Union ministry of environment and forest to take measures to prevent such deaths particularly in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
The tribunal directed the committee to conduct a joint meeting with Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Southern Railway in this regard within one month. But nothing had been done thus far, he added.
On February 10, the court ordered a probe by the CBI based on a report filed by Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) that Tamil Nadu elephants were being poached by ‘culprits’ from other states and that no action was being taken against middlemen and kingpins.
Pointing out the deaths of at least eight elephants and recovery of 300kg ivory from the possession of criminals, the court wondered as to how only male elephants had got ‘electrocuted’ and how such deaths had happened despite the presence of a large number of field level forest personnel and their watchful eyes.