Guwahati, Oct. 18: Gauhati High Court today directed Dispur to file a detailed affidavit before November 19 about the steps taken by the state government to check poaching of rhinos and also to spell out its stand on allegations of widespread encroachment of government land in Kaziranga National Park.
A division bench, comprising Chief Justice A.K. Goel and Justice A.K. Goswami, issued the directive.
The court, acting on a suo motu PIL (66/2012) admitted on October 4, had asked the central and state governments to file the affidavit today.
The state government, represented by additional advocate general Devajit Saikia, sought more time, after appri-sing the division bench during the hearing today about the steps taken by the forest and environment department to protect the rhinos.
“I mentioned the additional deployment of forces, including 50 armed personnel, to the existing Assam Forest Protection Force personnel, increasing their firepower by pr-oviding them SLRs to take on well-equipped poachers, incre-asing the number of forest ca-mps in the parks and necessa-ry amendments to make existing laws more effective. We ha-ve to file the detailed affidavit before November 19, the next date of hearing,” Saikia said.
As many as 16 rhinos have been killed by poachers since January, triggering widespread protest across the state. The killings have continued despite the government announcing a slew of measures.
The central government, through its counsel, said as the affairs of the national park were directly looked after by the state government, it had no submission to make at this stage.
The PIL was triggered by reports appearing in the media for over a month on poaching and killing of rhinos in the national park, and encroachment of its land by Bangladeshis illegally staying in Assam.
After examining the reports, the PIL committee of the court prepared a report and submitted it to the chief justice in public interest.
The committee sought direction to the governments and the forest departments to take effective steps to curb the killing of rhinos in the sanctuary and also to examine the allegation of largescale encroachment of KNP land.
Considering the issue sensitive and of great importance to the state, a suo motu PIL was registered. The division bench had then issued directions to the government to obtain necessary instructions on the PIL while fixing today for its first hearing.