I.A. No. 100 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 337 of 1995 and IA No. 3452 in WP (C) No. 202 of 1995 (Under Article 32 of the Constitution of India). Case: Centre for Environment Law, WWF-I Vs Union of India (UOI) and Ors.. Supreme Court

Case Number:I.A. No. 100 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 337 of 1995 and IA No. 3452 in WP (C) No. 202 of 1995 (Under Article 32 of the Constitution of India)
Party Name:Centre for Environment Law, WWF-I Vs Union of India (UOI) and Ors.
Counsel:For Appearing Parties: P.P. Malhotra, ASG, P.S. Narasimha (A.C.), T.S. Deobia, Raj Panjwani, Shyam Divan, Sr. Advs., Sukhbeer Kaur Bajwa, Kiran Bhardwaj, B.K. Prasad, Asha G. Nair, Md. Khithey, D.S. Mahra, Vijay Panjwani, Rahul Choudary, Aditya Shamlal, Anitha Shenoy, Hemantika Wahi, Nirman Sharma, Jesal, Gaurav Agrawal, K. Parameshwar, Haris ...
Judges:K.S. Panicker Radhakrishnan and Chandramauli Kumar Prasad, JJ.
Issue:Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 - Section 2; Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 - Sections 2(36), 2(37), 5A, 5B, 5C, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 40, 41, 42; Parliament vide Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976; Biological Diversity Act; Environment (Protection) Act, 1986; National Biodiversity Rules; Constitution of India - Articles 21, 48, 48A, 51A
Citation:2013 (3) ABR 1089, 2013 (XI) AD (SC) 135, 2013 (4) ALD 9, 2013 (4) AllMR 464, 2013 (3) EFLT 672, JT 2013 (7) SC 450, 2013 (5) MLJ 169, 2013 (5) SCALE 710, 2013 (8) SCC 234
Judgement Date:April 15, 2013
Court:Supreme Court


K.S. Panicker Radhakrishnan, J.

Application for Intervention is allowed.

  1. We have been called upon to decide the necessity of a second home for Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica), an endangered species, for its long term survival and to protect the species from extinction as issue rooted on eco-centrism, which supports the protection of all wildlife forms, not just those which are of instrumental value to humans but those which have intrinsic worth.


  2. The Wildlife Institute of India (for short 'WII'), an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Environment and Forests (for short 'MoEF'), Government of India, through its wildlife Biologists had done considerable research at the Gir Forest in the State of Gujarat since 1986. All those studies were geared to provide data which would help for the better management of the Gir forest and enhance the prospects for the long term conservation of lions at Gir, a single habitat of Asiatic lion in the world. The data collected by the Wildlife Biologists highlighted the necessity of a second natural habitat for its long term conservation. Few of the scientists had identified the Asiatic lions as a prime candidate for a re-introduction project to ensure its long term survival. In October 1993, a Population and Habitat Analysis Workshop was held at Baroda, Gujarat. Various issues came for consideration in that meeting and the necessity of a second home for Asiatic lions was one of the issues deliberated upon in that meeting. Three alternative sites for re-introduction of Asiatic lions were suggested for an intensive survey, the details of which are given below:

  3. Darrah-Jawaharsagar Wildlife Sanctuary (Rajasthan)

  4. Sitamata Wildlife Sanctuary (Rajasthan)

  5. Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary (Madhya Pradesh)

  6. The Research Advisory Committee of WII recognized the need for a prior survey to assess the potential of those sites. Accordingly, a field survey was conducted. Surveys of the three sites were made during winter as well as summer, to assess water availability during the summer and also to ascertain the changes in human impact on the habitat during the seasons. The surveyors concentrated on ascertaining the extent of forest area in and adjoining the chosen protected areas with the aim of establishing the contiguity of the forested habitat. Attempts were also made to establish the relative abundance of wild ungulate prey in the three sites based on direct sightings as well as on indirect evidence. An assessment of the impact on the people and their livestock on habitat quality in all three sites was also made. of the three sites surveyed, Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary (for short 'Kuno') was found to be the most suitable site for re-introduction in establishing a free ranging population of Asiatic lions. A draft report to that effect was prepared by eminent Scientists like Ravi Chellam, Justus Joshwa, Christy A. Williams and A.J. T. Johnsingh on behalf of WII. The report revealed that the Kuno was a historical distribution range of Asiatic lions. Report also highlighted the necessity of a long term commitment of resources, personnel, the necessity of a comprehensive rehabilitation package, adequate staff and facilities. Committee did not consider the presence of tigers in Kuno to be a major limiting factor, especially since the tigers occur in such low numbers and density. Since lions live in stable social units, report highlighted that it is important to take lions for the translocation also from a single pride. Further, it was also pointed out that genetic consideration would not be a major factor, provided fresh male lions are moved from Gir to Kuno every three to five years and the resident males in Kuno selectively captured for Zoos.

  7. State of Madhya Pradesh then undertook a massive rehabilitation package for the villagers settled in and near Kuno so as to push forward the scheme of relocation of Asiatic lions in Kuno. It was noticed that about 1545 families of 24 revenue villages were living inside Kuno and they had to be rehabilitated outside the sanctuary. Since suitable and sufficient revenue land was not available in adjoining areas, it was decided to relocate those villages on degraded protected forests. Since proposed site of resettlement fell in various blocks of protected forest, the use as a rehabilitation purpose involved a legal obligation to obtain prior sanction from MoEF under Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.

  8. The Secretary (Forests), Government of Madhya Pradesh, therefore, sent a letter dated 24.7.1996 to MoEF seeking final approval of the Central Government in accordance with the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. MoEF, after examining the request of the State of Madhya Pradesh, conveyed its approval under Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 for diversion of 3720.9 hectare of forest land for rehabilitation of 18 villages located inside the Kuno, subject to fulfillment of certain conditions. Out of 3720.9 hectare of the 13-forest compartments, 3395.9 hectare forest area of 12 compartments was finally approved by the Government of India for de-notification. Compartment No. P-442 of Umarikaia forest block was left out from the original proposal by Government of India letter dated 1.2.2000 and hence, the released area in first phase had been de-notified after due permission from the Government of India. Forest area of 1263.9 hectare released in the second phase could not be de-notified for want of permission from the Government of India. The Government of India constituted a Monitoring Committee for the effective implementation of the Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project at Kuno which met on 10.3.2004. The Survey report of WII was discussed in the meeting and it was noticed that Kuno Paipur Sanctuary of M.P. was identified as the project site/and a 20 year project was conceived in three phases as below:

    1. Phase I (1995-2000 A.D.) Village relocation and habitat development.

    2. Phase II (2000-2005) Fencing at the side, translocation, research and monitoring.

    3. Phase III (2005-2015) Eco-development.

    It was pointed out in the meeting that, currently, the project was in Phase II and 18 villages had been rehabilitated from Kuno. Further, in the meeting, the Chief Wildlife Warden of Gujarat had, however, opined that there was no commitment on the part of the State of Gujarat for providing lions and the State Government had not agreed for the same. Based on the discussion, the Chairman summed up the consensus which emerged out of the deliberations as follows:

  9. A letter from MOS, MoEF should be sent to the Chief Minister of Gujarat, highlighting the project justification with a request to provide lions for translocation to Kuno Palpur Sanctuary.

  10. State of Gujarat should be provided with a set of project documents.

  11. The Chief Wildlife Warden, MP should prepare a road map with a final detail for translocation of lions from Gir to Kuno.

  12. An assessment of prey base in Kuno should be done by WII.

  13. No further expenditure should be incurred with a focus on lion; however, funding support for habitat improvement/welfare initiatives for other wild animals can continue.

  14. The scheme for rehabilitation of villagers was prepared by the centrally sponsored "Beneficiary-oriented Scheme for Tribal Development". It was stated in the scheme that a total of more than Rs. 1545 lacs would be required for the satisfactory relocation of 1545 families of 24 villages out of the limit of Kuno. Out of 1545 lacs, 1061 lacs had been spent on relocation process. Balance 484 lacs were required to be released for the remaining rehabilitation works. The Chief Wildlife Warden, M.P. had certified the said expenditure.

  15. WII, in the meantime, had made a detailed assessment of prey population for lion re-location in Kuno. It was noticed that since re-location of villages from Kuno was complete, Government of M.P. was keen to assess the prey base in the sanctuary so as to plan obtaining lions from Gujarat for re-introduction as early as possible. For the said purpose, the task of evaluating for wild prey base was entrusted to WII. Consequently, the faculty from WII, with the help of 34 forest staff, had undertaken the study of ungulates in Kuno under the guidance of Dr. Raghu Chundawat and carried out the prey assessment exercise from 2.1.2005 to 8.1.2005 and 8.2.2005 to 13.2.2005. A report was filed in June 2006 (July 2006). The Minister of MoEF sent a letter dated 20.7.2006 to the Chief Minister of Gujarat for translocation of two numbers of lions to Kuno. The Chief Minister of Gujarat vide his letter dated 30.4.2006 replied stating that the matter had been placed before the concerned department for further views. But nothing had been transpired in spite of the fact that crores and crores of rupees were spent by the Government of India for relocation of villages, de-notifying the reserve forest and so on which led to the filing of this public interest litigation seeking a direction to the Respondents to implement the re-location programme as recommended by WII, and approved by the Government of India.

  16. The Minister for Tribal Welfare, Forests and Environment, Government of Gujarat vide his D.O. letter dated 18.8.2007 had indicated that it was not possible for the State Government to agree to the proposal for creation of a second home at Kuno in Madhya Pradesh for Asiatic Lions. When the matter came up for consideration before this Court on 30.11.2007 and this Court passed the following Order:

    There was a proposal for translocation of some of the Asiatic Lions found in the Gir National Park to a forest in Madhya Pradesh. The State of Gujarat has raised certain objections. The State of Madhya Pradesh wants to file its response...... The proposal is directed to be submitted to the National Board for Wildlife. NBWL may consider the objections of State of Gujarat and response of Madhya Pradesh and submit is recommendation in this Court in...

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