Prevent accidents or face action, Madras High Court warns Centre

The Madras High Court (HC) on Friday came down heavily on the Union Government and the Railways with a warning to “take action to prevent deaths of elephants on railway tracks or face action.” The HC asked the Centre to submit a plan to prevent the death of pachyderms on railway tracks and poaching incidents by December 20.
Prevent accidents or face action, Madras High Court warns Centre
Madras High Court (File Photo)


A division bench of Justices V Bharathidasan and N Sathish Kumar was hearing a batch of petitions filed since 2016 seeking directions to the Centre to prevent the elephant deaths in train accidents and poaching.
The judges held that committees were formed to give recommendations to prevent the deaths but they were only on paper and not enforced.
When the counsels for the petitioners submitted that about 13,000 elephants have died in the past five years due to various reasons, the bench observed, “We will not mind summoning the highest level of officers concerned and would make them vicariously liable for the deaths of the elephants.” The court also noted that actions were not taken against the loco pilots for causing the death of jumbos. Responding to this charge, the Centre submitted that the trains were being operated only at the speed of 45 kmph on the elephant corridors. It further contended that elephants die even if they collide with trains coming at a speed of 5 kmph.
The judges raised eyebrows at how the male elephants are being targeted citing that 300 kg of ivory was possessed.
Senior counsel Arvind Pandian, who has been appointed as the amicus curiae in the matter, submitted that the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had passed orders to the Centre to constitute a Central Monitoring Committee to monitor and prevent the deaths of jumbos in the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. He also informed the court that about 61 elephants have died in rail accidents in the past three years.
Though the NGT asked the committee to conduct a meeting with Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and the Railways within a month, it was not done, according to the amicus curiae.

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