New Delhi, Jan 8 (IANS) Expressing serious concern over brutal attack by poachers on unarmed forest officials, the Supreme Court on Friday asked the state governments to follow the Assam model and provide firearms and bulletproof jackets to forest guards.
The bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde and also comprising Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said that it was “extremely distressing” to see forest officials wearing slippers and armed with sticks put on duty to protect large tracts of forest land and flora and fauna.
The Chief Justice also observed that the unarmed officials stood little chance against heavily armed poachers. “A forest ranger is in a situation where he cannot call for help unlike a policeman in a city. No one to help him in a forest,” he remarked.
The bench pointed out that the situation was “serious and difficult to comprehend” as to how these guards have to protect vast tracts of inhabited land, which the poachers take undue advantage of to carry out their nefarious activities.
The Chief Justice recalled that pangolin scales were seized by forest officials in the past, adding that these were in great demand in China. The poachers operate as part of an illegal international trade in wildlife, running into millions of dollars.
“When powerful organised gangs are behind it, one must arm the forest officials and if possible open a wildlife wing in the Enforcement Directorate to deal exclusively with illegal trade in wildlife involving millions of dollars,” the CJI said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta agreed with the court’s suggestion and submitted that the central government would explore such possibility.