Gujarat HC To Order High-Level Probe Into Lion Deaths

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Gujarat HC To Order High-Level Probe Into Lion Deaths

| Updated: April 24, 2024 12:28

Court pulls up Railways and forest department officials for inaction

The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday said it will order a high-level inquiry into the operations of the Indian Railways and the forest department to find out the cause of deaths of three lions on railway tracks in January. 

The bench pulled up both the departments for their “sketchy” inquiry reports. A bench of Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice Aniruddha Mayee has been hearing a suo motu PIL on unnatural deaths of Asiatic lions.

The judges expressed dissatisfaction with the probe into the deaths of lions in two separate accidents and questioned why the department heads had not asked for an inquiry report on the incidents.

Panel to conduct inquiry 

The CJ said a high-level committee would be constituted comprising the secretary of ministry of Railways and the secretary of forest and environment department, Gujarat. They would   jointly constitute a committee comprising officials of the Railways and the forest department. This panel would conduct an inquiry into the cause of the incidents and fix responsibility on erring officers. 

The HC pulled up the departments for their indifference, saying the officers did not even know about the incidents in their area. “Our anxiety is that three deaths occurred between January 9 and 21, but nobody was alerted. Whatever you did was a departmental inquiry, which is a routine process. But it was not a routine incident. You people must have been alerted,” the CJ said. This needed the attention of higher authorities. There was no zeal or effort shown in the department officers, she said. 

Justice Mayee took note of the fact that all accidents involving lions had taken place on a particular stretch between Pipavav and Liliya. 

Train speeds

Amicus curiae Hemang Shah brought to the court’s notice the Railways’ plan for gauge conversion and pointed out that against the forest department’s proposal to maintain train speeds at 20 kmph, the Railways was planning to run trains at 40 kmph speed on the stretch. 

The CJ pulled up the Railways for sticking to its plan of gauge conversion. The Railways’ counsel submitted that the plan would not go ahead in the absence of the forest department’s consent. To this, the CJ said, “There is complete non-application of mind and then filing irresponsible responses in the court…” The matter will be further heard on June 26.

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