NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said in the present "fragile eco-system", it will not allow anybody to create troubles for elephants in their corridor of Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu and decided to appoint a committee headed by a former High Court judge to look into the claims of owners of sealed hotels and resorts there.
The top court, on August 9, 2018, had taken note of the report of the district collector of Nilgiris and had asked the Tamil Nadu government to seal or close down 27 commercial establishments including hotels and resorts in the eco-sensitive elephant corridor of the state.
"We are dealing with a very fragile eco-system. These elephants can become extinct in no time if illegal activities are not curbed in the elephant corridor. We do not want anybody to create trouble for elephants," said the bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices S A Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna.
The bench said it would appoint a three-member committee headed by a former High Court judge to inspect the Nilgiri area in the state and the panel would consider which hotels or resorts are authorised or unauthorised for the purposes of granting compensation to the owners of such commercial establishments.
It asked senior lawyers including Salman Khursheed and Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni to give names of the judges and environmentalists to be appointed in the committee by Monday.
The bench said it will not deal with the validity of the declaration with regard to specifying the area as the elephant corridor.
It said the owners of commercial establishments in Nilgiri area will be compensated only if their structures are found to be authorised.
"We want to protect the routes and areas used by elephants and if you (hotel owners) are found in their way then you will have to be relocated," the bench said.
The top court had earlier asked the Tamil Nadu government to seal or close down 27 commercial establishments in the Nilgiri elephant corridor.
The district collector of Nilgiris had said in the report that resorts with restaurants were operating in the area even though they did not have approval for the same.
The apex court was told earlier that around 18,000 elephants came to Tamil Nadu during the monsoon season and it should direct that the power connection to these resorts and hotels be snapped.
The owners of some of these hotels and resorts have also filed appeals in the apex court against a Madras High Court order against them in this regard.
The top court had earlier said it was "extremely unfortunate" that several states had not responded to two communications sent by the Centre on the issue of elephant corridors to curb incidents of human-animal conflict and reduce animal fatalities.
It had stressed on the need to have elephant corridors across the country to reduce animal fatalities due to accidents and other reasons and asked the Centre to come up with some "workable solution" in this regard.
The Centre had told the court that there were 27 "critical" elephant corridors in 22 states across the country.