SC seeks Centre's response on plea for relocating Gir lions to Madhya Pradesh
New Delhi, Jan 28: The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought response from the Centre on a plea by an NGO seeking direction for shifting some Asiatic lions from Gujarat's Gir forest to a wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.
A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant issues notices to various respondents including Ministry of Environment and Forest and sought their response within four weeks.
The issue of shifting Gir lions to Madhya Pradesh had first come up in April 2013 when the apex court had directed relocating them. It had said the species should have a second home to save it from extinction, due to catastrophes like epidemic, large forest fire etc. Gujarat has been opposing Madhya Pradesh's request of lions.
The Madhya Pradesh government had chosen Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Sheopur district of Gwalior division as a second home for over 500 Asiatic lions.
During the arguments on Tuesday, senior advocate Anitha Shenoy, appearing for the petitioner, told the bench that the process to relocate some lions from Gir to Kuno wildlife sanctury in Madhya Pradesh had started in 1989 when area in Kuno was made ready for the relocation.
Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that this issue had cropped up in 2018 also when several lions had died in Gir due to spread of canine distemper virus.
He said that after the 2013 order, a contempt plea was also filed alleging that lions were not relocated from Gir, but the apex court had rejected it.
One of the lawyers appearing in the matter said that Kuno was close to Ranthambore National Park, which is home to tigers, in Rajasthan and there was a possibility of conflict between the two big cats if lions are relocated there.
Nadkarni told the bench that when the contempt plea had come up for hearing in the apex court earlier, Kuno was not ready for introduction of Asiatic lion, and a tiger was also spotted in the reserve there.