SC to hear plea against declaring Nilgai, monkeys as vermin


New Delhi : An animal rights activist has asked the Supreme Court to quash a government order declaring some animals as vermin that allowed them to be culled, a notification that recently saw two cabinet ministers have a go at each other. The plea filed on Wednesday also wants the court to immediately put on hold the three notifications that declare nilgai (blue bulls), monkeys and wild boars as vermin in the states of Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, respectively. “The impugned notifications have been passed in absolute disregard of the human-wildlife conflict plaguing the country and without any scientific survey backing them,” the plea said.

The Centre’s decisions to classify on state governments’ request these animals as vermin put the spotlight back on conservation challenges in India as incidents of man-animal conflict rise with shrinking wildlife habitats. Appearing for animal rights activist Gauri Maulekhi, senior advocate Anand Grover said the Centre didn’t have the power to issue such a notification. He said people were being hired for mass killing of the animals declared vermin. A vacation bench of justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and justice L Nageswara Rao agreed to list the matter during the week.

Starting December 1, the environment ministry has issued three notifications. The most recent was on May 24, declaring monkeys to be vermin in some districts of Himachal Pradesh. The states had complained they were struggling to pay farmers for crop losses and the growing animal population also posed a risk to human lives.
The vermin tag, the plea said, deprived animals of the shield provided under the wildlife protection act. “The state is no longer responsible for safeguarding the life and well-being of such animals. The indiscriminate killing of these animals will have a detrimental effect on the food chain and in turn lead to an ecological imbalance,” the plea said.

Arguing for quashing of the Section 62 of the wildlife act, the petitioner said it gave arbitrary power and unfettered discretion to the government. “Section 62 is in complete violation of Article 14 of the Constitution and hence unsustainable”, it said. Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi, too, has spoken out against “indiscriminate” killing of animals. Gandhi held her environment ministry colleague Prakash Javadekar responsible and said she could not understand the “lust for killing animals”. Javadekar has defended the move, saying the culling was for “scientific management” of rising animal population. Every year, crops standing in hundreds of acres are destroyed by animals looking for food. Efforts by people to protect their farmland often leads to fatalities on both sides.