Madhya Pradesh High Court on Friday, 30 August 2019, admitted a petition by senior journalist and eminent conservationist Lalit Shastri challenging the reconstitution of the State Wildlife Board on the grounds that it is vitiated by law and is against the mandatory provision of Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
Since a petition on similar grounds (WP 17127/2019) by social activist Ajay Dube has been admitted by the Jabalpur High Court on August 26; notice has been served to the State Government and other respondents in this matter; and they have been given three weeks’ time to respond; the Single Judge Bench of Justice Subodh Abhyankar, when the petition by Shastri came up on Friday, ordered that it be linked with WP 17127/2019.
Senior Advocate Praveen Kumar Pandey presented the case on behalf of the petitioner in Jabalpur High Court on Friday.
Through his petition, Shastri has called in question the legality, validity and propriety of the State Government’s gazette notification of 3 August 2019 for the reconstitution of the State Wild Life Board under section 6 of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. Section 6 (1) (e) of this Act, introduced with the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002, which came into force in 2003 and substitutes Section 6 (1) (h) of the Principal Act clearly states that “ten persons to be nominated by the State from among eminent conservationists, ecologists and environmentalist including at least two representatives of Scheduled Tribes”, but in the gazette notification issued for reconstituting the Board, three persons are shown as having only ‘special interest in wildlife’ and they are not eminent conservationists, ecologists and environmentalists. Two members of Scheduled Tribes also have not been nominated as required under the provision of Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
The petition by Shastri points to a government letter dated 8.7.2019. Through this letter, nine persons had been jointly informed that they were being nominated to the State Wildlife Board.
This letter was also addressed to the petitioner, who is an eminent conservationist, wildlife expert, birder and wildlife filmmaker of international repute. In the gazette notification that was issued on 3 August 2019, some of these nine persons were replaced by those having only “special interest in wildlife”. This was done merely on grounds of political obligation, bias, partial reasons by adopting illegal and arbitrary manner, Shastri has alleged and demanded a “speaking order” from the Government in this regard.
The entire proceeding leading to the gazette notification for reconstituting the Wildlife Board, according to the petitioner, is vitiated by law against the mandatory provision of Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, as amended by the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002 (of 2003).
For more than two decades, Shastri has played an active role as a conservationist. He is founder President of CREW ( Crusade for Revival of Environment and Wildlife) a not-for-profit organisation.