The Madras High Court on Tuesday directed the authorities concerned to strictly enforce from February 10, an order of the Erode district Collector banning movement of motor vehicles in the night on Bannari-Karapallam stretch of the Coimbatore-Bengaluru national highway (NH-948) that runs through the eco-sensitive Satyamangalam Tiger Reserve (STR). The first bench of Acting Chief Justice M N Bhandari and Justice D Bharatha Chakravarthy gave the direction, while entertaining a PIL petition from city-based advocate SP Chockalingam, today.
The petition prayed for a direction to the Erode district Collector-cum- Regional Transport Authority to impose complete ban on plying of vehicles from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. and ban of heavy commercial vehicles between 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. on the said stretch of NH 948. His interim prayer is for a direction to the authorities to form Forest Highway Patrol teams to regulate traffic in the stretch. After slamming the officials of the government departments concerned for the lapses and inaction in implementing the notification already issued by the Collector, the bench gave the direction to protect the lives of wild animals. "The respondents are directed to give effect to the notification without further delay," the bench said.
Earlier, the bench was told that the district Collector had issued the notification banning movement of motor vehicles in the night on the stretch, three years ago. But it could not be given effect to, following stiff resistance from the public. The judges indicted the forest officials for not implementing the notification despite a lapse of three years. They should have the spine to enforce the rules. They should not remain as silent spectators. "Are you not taking salary and minting money", the judges asked. They should be held accountable for the death of a vast number of animals in road accidents on the stretch, the bench added.
The petitioner claimed that 155 wild animals, including 71 spotted deer, 55 peacocks and eight leopards, were killed in road accidents on the stretch in the last ten years. The national highway cuts through the core reserved forest. The unbridled vehicular traffic throughout the day and night prevented the free movement of the animals which are immobilised from moving in their territory. The movement of vehicles is not only causing serious disturbances to wildlife but also have deleterious and detrimental effects on the entire ecosystem, he contended.
With PTI Inputs