Supreme Court Issues Interim Order on Zoos in Forests Pending Final Verdict: Details

The Supreme Court's interim order restricting zoos in forest areas will stand until a final judgment is delivered by another bench. Get the details on this development, including concerns over conflicting orders and the scope of the Forest Conservation Act.

Supreme Court Issues Interim Order on Zoos in Forests Pending Final Verdict
Supreme Court Issues Interim Order on Zoos in Forests Pending Final Verdict

New Delhi, Feb 28: A recent interim order from the Supreme Court has put restrictions on the establishment of zoos within forest areas until a final judgment is pronounced by another bench. This directive, issued by a bench led by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud, stipulates that the interim order will remain in effect until a coordinate bench delivers its final verdict on the matter.

The attention of the Supreme Court was drawn to this issue as a coordinate bench, headed by Justice B R Gavai, has reserved orders on the subject. The three-judge bench, including justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, clarified that any proposals for establishing zoos and safaris in forest areas, as outlined in the Wild Life Protection Act 1972, must not receive final approval from states/union territories without prior permission from the court.

The interim order, issued on February 19 but uploaded to the apex court website recently, asserts that any such proposals must be brought before the Union Government or the competent authority for prior approval from the court before implementation. However, this directive will only hold until the final judgment of the coordinate bench is pronounced.

The interim order stemmed from a batch of writ petitions challenging the Forest Conservation (Amendment) Act 2023. Notably, another bench led by Justice BR Gavai had also reserved orders on the issue of zoos within forests while hearing the TN Godavarman Thirumulpad case.

Justice Gavai, upon referring to the interim order passed by the bench led by the Chief Justice, expressed concerns about the potential for conflicting orders. The bench inquired whether the CJI-led bench was informed about the matter being heard by Justice Gavai’s bench, to which the Centre’s counsel clarified that the CJI-led bench was aware and that their order was interim in nature.

In its interim order, the apex court highlighted the extension of the Forest Conservation Act’s coverage to two categories of lands, including those declared or identified as forests under existing laws, and those recorded as forests in government records after a specific date.

The Supreme Court’s interim order serves to regulate the establishment of zoos in forest areas pending a final judgment from another coordinate bench. The court’s attention to potential conflicting orders underscores the complexity of legal proceedings surrounding environmental conservation and wildlife protection in India.

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