The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it would hear, next week, a plea seeking urgent steps to protect forests and wildlife in Uttarakhand from wild fires.
The petition claimed forest fires have been historically regular in the hill state. "Every year, forest fires in Uttarakhand causes great loss to the forest ecosystem, diversity of flora and fauna, and economic wealth. It is one of the major disasters in the state. Forests are socially and environmentally inter-linked with the people in the hilly areas and play important role n the economic welfare of the region," said the petition filed by advocate Rupam Uniyal.
A vacation bench of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Surya Kant observed that it is a serious issue, "and in the meantime, we pray for rain" as it listed the matter for further hearing on June 24.
The petition, filed in the apex court last week, sought directions to the government authorities concerned to enable pre-fire arrangements, develop a robust policy to prevent forest fires, and direct an investigation into the matter by an independent agency.
"Declare the entire animal kingdom including avian and aquatic (species) as legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.
"All the animals have honour and dignity. Thus, in order to protect and promote greater welfare of animals, including avian and aquatic, animals are required to be conferred with the status of legal entity/legal person," it sought.
The petition also said that despite a prominent research centre, the Forest Research Institute, located in the state, the authorities concerned have not consulted it yet. It also brought the court's attention to two national parks -- Corbett National Park and Rajaji National Park - which could be under threat of forest fires.