Friday, Aug 12, 2022

Nahargarh Wildlife Sanctuary: SC Agrees To Hear Appeal Against NGT Order

The Supreme Court Wednesday agreed to hear an appeal by the Department of Archaeology and Museums of Rajasthan and others against the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order directing the state to shut all the restaurants operating in the notified forest area of Nahargarh Wildlife Sanctuary/Nahargarh Fort in Jaipur from today.

While issuing notice on the plea, the apex court asked the counsel appearing for the appellants to stop the light and sound programme in the area.

“How are you aggrieved? Why are you allowing non-forest activities there,” a bench of Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Krishna Murari told senior advocate Manish Singhvi, who was appearing for the appellants -- Department of Archaeology and Museum and others.

Singhvi told the bench that tourists visit the historical monument and there was an RTDC restaurant that was running for the last 30 years. He said that without any restaurants, the tourists will not have anything for refreshments there.

“We will hear this,” the bench said, adding, “You stop the light and sound programme.”

The top court observed that there was no order of demolition in the area.

“What are you doing with this liquor thing there,” the bench observed during the hearing.

The top court issued notice and sought responses from the applicant, on whose application the NGT had passed the order in the matter, and others. It posted the matter for hearing after eight weeks.

The NGT, in its October 4 order, had also directed that the light and sound programme in the area of the wildlife sanctuary be discontinued from December 1.

In its appeal, filed in the apex court through advocate D K Devesh, the department and others have said that Nahargarh Fort is situated around 15 km away from the Jaipur city at the end of the forest area. It said that in general conditions, the number of tourists at Nahargarh Fort in a year is about 7.14 lakh.

“In such a situation, the shortage of basic facilities of food and eating items for the tourists shall arise,” it said.

The plea said that after about two years, tourists have again started to visit Jaipur in large numbers and the absence of any refreshment facility shall cause them great inconvenience.

“The light and sound show is operating from the Amer Fort’s ‘Kesar Kyari’ and it is not only an attraction for the local and foreigner tourists, but it accurately and effectively presents the history of Amer and Rajasthan and educational facts. By its closure the tourists shall be deprived of such attractive and educational activities,” it said.

In its order, the NGT had said that restaurants, as well as light and sound programmes, are non-forest activities that are not permissible in forest areas and are also not congenial to the objects of the Wildlife Act.

"Accordingly, we direct that all restaurants operating in the notified forest area of Nahargarh Wildlife Sanctuary/ Nahargarh Fort be discontinued with effect from December 1, 2021. In case of any dispute the boundaries be verified jointly by the Forest Department and Collector Jaipur," the tribunal had said.

"We also direct that the light and sound programme in the area of wildlife sanctuary be discontinued from the said date. It is however made clear that this will not affect parking and entry of visitors in the Fort/Museum,” it had said.

The NGT had also said that the Forest Department will install noise barriers at appropriate locations to mitigate the impact of noise generated by vehicles. It had said that the forest department will also regulate the number of vehicles and locations of parking.

The tribunal had passed the order on a plea filed by a Rajasthan native against non-forest activities being carried out in the Nahargarh Wildlife Sanctuary, including Nahargarh Fort near Jaipur in Rajasthan.

According to the applicant before the NGT, as per judgement of the Supreme Court, no non-forest activities is permissible in forest area, yet non-forest activities have been allowed in the form of restaurants and the excise department has issued license of Bar to the resorts/hotels, cafeterias situated in the Nahargarh Wildlife Sanctuary without prior permission of the forest department.

With PTI inputs.