The Supreme Court on Friday asked the state governments to follow the Assam model and provide firearms and bulletproof jackets to forest guards deployed in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde and comprising Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian expressed serious concern over the brutal attack by poachers on unarmed forest officials.
The bench cited the example of Assam and 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.
“It is difficult to imagine how any law can be enforced by the forest officers and staff who are poorly armed against poachers, who are likely to be heavily armed,” the bench observed.
“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,” the CJI remarked.
“We find it difficult to comprehend how these forest officers and staff would be in a position to protect the environment and forests that are normally vast tracts of uninhabited land, of which poachers take undue advantage to carry out their nefarious activities,” the top court said in its order.
The apex court’s observations came during the hearing of an application for stay on all proceedings against forest officers and staff concerned vis-a-vis an FIR registered under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act on May 23, 2020, at the Mount Abu police station in Rajasthan.
The top court stayed the proceedings as interim relief and scheduled the matter for hearing after four weeks.