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Scanner on illegal prawn farming

Orissa High Court. Telegraph picture

Cuttack: Orissa High Court has decided to first deal with illegal prawn farming while considering the threat to ecology of the two important wetlands of the state - Bhitarkanika National Park and Chilika Lake.

The court on Wednesday fixed July 2 for taking up the issue along with various reports of the authorities concerned and the amicus curiae appointed in the case.

An amicus curiae is someone who is not party to a case and may or may not have been solicited by a party, who assists a court by offering information, expertise, or insight that has a bearing on the issues in the case. The decision on whether to consider an amicus brief lies within the court.

The high court had taken up the issue suo motu registering a PIL in September last year for restoration of the ecology of the two wetlands in pursuance of a direction by the Supreme Court.

The apex court had issued the direction on April 3, 2017 to the chief justice of the high courts in 15 states to take up the issue of conservation of ecology of important wetlands. Of the 26 major wetlands located in the 15 states, two are located in Odisha.

Initially, since the matter was of public importance, the high court had appointed Mohit Agarwal as amicus curiae on September 19, to assist it. Subsequently, in pursuance of direction issued by the court on January 11, the collectors of the four districts concerned - Kendrapada, Khurda, Puri and Ganjam - had filed affidavits with details of the squatters at Bhitarkanika and Chilika.

The details had identified areas under illegal prawn culture by persons illegally having prawn gherries within the prohibited area.

When the case came up on Wednesday, the amicus curiae, who had earlier submitted a set of suggestions filed a report raising various issues taking into consideration the affidavits filed by the collectors of the four districts.

Taking note of it, the division bench of Chief Justice Vineet Saran and Justice B.R. Sarangi posted the matter to July 2 for hearing for actions that should be taken for clearing illegal prawn culture in the Chilika lake.

The court had in its previous orders indicated there should first be identification of the areas where illegal prawn culture is going on.

Consequently, demolition of such illegal prawn gheries, eviction of illegal occupants and then simultaneous lodging of criminal prosecution against the offenders should be carried out.

The issue of restoration of the area's ecology would be taken up after that.

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