The Supreme Court told the West Bengal government Tuesday to follow the Centre's guidelines on management of human-elephant conflicts to ensure a smooth movement of the animals and reduce the possibility of their death or damage of crops.
A bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur said this after the counsel appearing for West Bengal said they were willing to abide by the "guidelines for management of human-elephants conflict" issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
"No technology is available today to guide elephants. Unlike in Africa, in India, we have not mapped the corridors (for the movement of elephants). The corridors are changing. As of now, we only have the old technology of using a 'mashal' (fire torch) to guide the elephants. We are serious that we do not want any injury or death of elephants," the state's counsel said.
He added that the migration season of elephants would start soon and they would train people so that no injury was inflicted upon the pachyderms.
The counsel appearing for the petitioner, who had raised the issue of the use of spikes and fireballs in some states to drive away elephants, said "mashal" or fire should not be allowed to be used in the process.
"The problem is that animals are sensitive to fire and heat. Heat might lead to chaos among elephants or any other animals," the petitioner's lawyer said, adding, "Fire is not a solution."
However, the state's counsel said if "mashal" was not used, then there would be "uncontrolled movement" of elephants and in that case, people might take the law into their hands.
He also made it clear that the state was not averse to any suggestion as it was not treating the issue raised as adversarial.
The lawyer said they had not used spikes to drive away elephants in the state.
He also said that according to the apex court's direction, they had placed before the bench the names and designations of the forest department officials, who would be held responsible for any accident due to the use of fire torch.
At the fag end of the hearing, the counsel appearing for the Centre told the court that a meeting was held on November 22 and the authorities had "in-principle" agreed to set up a high-powered committee to oversee adherence to the guidelines on the management of human-animal conflicts across the country.
The Centre said four weeks' time would be needed to form the committee.
The bench then posted the matter for further hearing in the third week of January.
On October 22, the court had observed that human-animal conflicts, especially involving elephants, were a "problem" and the Centre should consider setting up a task force to ensure adherence to the guidelines in this regard.
The top court had earlier termed the use of spikes and fireballs to drive away elephants "barbaric" and directed the states to desist from using such methods.
The directions of the court had come after it was told that these methods were allegedly being adopted in states, including Karnataka, West Bengal and Jharkhand.
The Karnataka government had earlier told the court that in July itself, the state authority had written to all the officers concerned for removing the spikes.
The counsel for West Bengal had said the state had issued guidelines that none of these harmful things would be used to drive away elephants.
Similarly, the Jharkhand government had also said it had not imposed any restrictions on the movement of wild elephants.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)