A day after the Supreme Court refused to interfere with the Kerala High Court order on the shifting of tusker Arikkomban, the state government made it clear on Tuesday (April 18) that it would act in accordance with the judiciary’s verdicts and soon identify a suitable place for the relocation.
Forest Minister AK Saseendran told reporters in Kochi that wildlife officials have been asked to find out the new place for the “rice-loving” tusker’s relocation and submit a report in this regard.
“As a government, we have the responsibility to act in accordance with the verdicts of the judiciary. The government will not backtrack from that responsibility. A new location should be identified. Directions have already been given to wildlife officials to find a suitable place and report,” he said.
Watch: Why Kerala’s ‘rice-thief’ elephant Arikkomban is giving Idukki the chills
“Cannot be prolonged indefinitely”
The Kerala High Court, basing its verdict on an expert committee report, ordered that the rogue bull elephant be shifted from Idukki to Parambikulam Tiger Reserve in Palakkad district. However, the people staying close to the tiger reserve started protesting against the relocation of the tusker that has earned notoriety for raiding shops storing grains, especially rice, and also killing people.
Under pressure, the state first appealed in High Court for a review of its order, and when it refused, in Supreme Court against it. The state government wanted the tusker to be sent to a training centre, noting that it had killed seven people and destroyed several homes. However, the Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala, refused to entertain the appeal, saying the recommendation was made by an expert committee.
Saseendran, who had earlier said that the government could not possibly keep moving court every time people protested against the tusker’s relocation, said on Tuesday that if the wildlife officials submit the report by Wednesday, it will be examined thoroughly and further action taken after informing the high court. He added that the issue cannot be prolonged indefinitely.
The state had initially ordered that Arikkomban be tranquillised and captured. However, in March, the high court stayed the state government’s order after two animal rights groups, People for Animals (PFA), Trivandrum Chapter, and the Walking Eye Foundation for Animal Advocacy filed a PIL.
The high court constituted a committee of experts that reported that the area the tusker was roaming was traditionally an elephant habitat where tribals had been resettled without any thought. The court, noting that resettling people in an elephant habitat was the “root of the entire problem,” had ordered for Arikkomban to be relocated to the tiger reserve where it would find enough food and water.
(With agency inputs)