BENGALURU: Karnataka has won the ‘Bandipur Highway Ban’ case against Kerala, which had opposed tooth-and-nail the nine-hour traffic ban during night on NH-766 (earlier NH-212). This move is to protect tigers, elephants, leopards and a host of other wildlife in the region.
After years of litigation, curtains finally came down on the Bandipur night traffic ban (NTB) issue in the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Upholding the nine-hour ban from 9pm to 6am, the apex court said once the NHAI completes the upgradation of the alternative alignment, even the existing stretch must be closed for traffic so that wildlife is protected. It also directed the Centre to come up with permanent measures so that highways do not pass through core areas of tiger reserves.
In May, the Centre had filed an affidavit in the apex court recommending continuation of the nine-hour traffic ban on this highway that traverses Bandipur National Park. It was the turning point in the case when the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways supported Karnataka and Tamil Nadu’s stand to maintain the status quo on restrictions for night travel in Bandipur and dropped its proposal for an elevated corridor in the country’s premier tiger reserve.
The Bandipur ban issue has made numerous headlines in the last decade with activists and wildlife groups filing intervening petitions and holding protest movements for continuation of the ban.
However, the closure did not last long when Kerala protested. Later, the night traffic ban was restored in 2010 by the Karnataka High Court on NH-212 due to rising incidents of wildlife killings. The court permitted an equal but restricted number of Karnataka and Kerala road transport corporation buses to ply during the ban hours.
However, emergency vehicles were permitted from both the states. In 2010, the high court order was challenged by Kerala, which filed an SLP in the Supreme Court. Further, many rounds of talks between the CMs of the two states failed to resolve the issue as Karnataka was firm in its decision of restrictions on this highway and already built an alternative road at a cost of `75 crore for goods and other traffic to Kerala.