Observing that the state is obligated to protect wildlife and its citizens from any injury caused by wild animals, the Bombay High Court on Monday directed the Maharashtra government to pay Rs 10 lakh compensation to a woman whose husband died after a wild boar rammed his motorcycle. It added that if any wild animal causes injury to a person, it indicates the state government’s failure to protect the right to life guaranteed under the Constitution.
“It is necessary to note that it is the duty of the concerned officer of the state government to protect wild animals and not allow them to wander outside the restricted safety zone. Similarly, as a corollary duty, it is also the obligation cast upon the concerned officers to protect citizens from any injuries by wild animals. Thus, it is a twin obligation of the state government,” the bench observed.
A division bench of Justices Gautam S Patel and Gauri V Godse on Monday passed the judgment on a plea by Anuja Arun Redij, from Chanderai in Ratnagiri district, seeking monetary compensation as per a government resolution (GR) issued for providing financial help to citizens attacked by wild animals.
The widow, through senior advocate Ram S Apte and advocate Ketan A Dhavle, submitted that on February 5, 2019, her husband, who was working as head mechanic at a state transport workshop at Ratnagiri, Malnaka was commuting from Ratnagiri city to Chanderai on his two-wheeler around 2 am.
A wild boar attack on the stretch left him with serious injuries to which he succumbed nearly five hours later, Redij said. Apte relied on a GR dated July 11, 2018 which provided for a compensation of Rs 10 lakh in case of a person’s death due to an attack by a wild animal.
The counsel pointed out that the petitioner had made an application before the regional forest officer in February and March 2019, but it was rejected citing that information about the accident was not intimated to the nearest forest officer within 48 hours of the accident. Thereafter, Redij approached the state forest minister but got no response, prompting her to move the high court.
After hearing the submissions, the bench noted that the state did not produce the concerned GR on record and held that it “squarely applies” to the present case. “In any case, the 48 hours timeline is irrelevant so far as the claim made by the petitioner is concerned. In any event, this will not absolve the state from its liability to pay compensation. A human life is lost in the accident, thus the reasons given by the authorities and its communication itself is illegal and unjustified,” it noted.
It further observed that “if any wild animal causes injury to any person, this, in fact, is a failure of the state government to protect the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.”
The bench went on to observe, “…The approach of the state government is not acceptable and in fact is disheartening… it is obvious that the state machinery failed to provide the required protection to human life which is guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”
The bench set aside the order of the regional forest officer rejecting the compensation and directed the authorities to pay Rs 10 lakh to the petitioner within three months as per the compensation provided in the 2018 GR, along with six per cent interest from the expiry of three months from the date of application, that is February 11, 2019 till the actual payment is made.
It also ordered authorities to pay her Rs 50,000 within three months for rejecting her application on account of hyper-technicalities. The court posted the writ plea for compliance on January 9, 2023.