The Gujarat governments argument that there is no need to move the Asiatic lions from the states Gir territory prompted the Supreme Court to observe on Tuesday that the big cats are not the property of the state,but belong to the country.
No state can claim the right over an animal merely because the animal is housed in a particular state. It does not become the property of that state,it belongs to the country, a Forest Bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and C K Prasad shot back at the state government.
Gujarat is making a spirited case of its distinction as the only state in the country to have Asiatic lions,and is objecting to a plan to re-locate some of the Asiatic lion population to Madhya Pradesh.
The opposition from the state comes despite the National Board for Wildlife also voting against the Gujarat governments reluctance to shift the lions.
Justice Radhakrishnan told senior advocate Shyam Divan,appearing for the Gujarat government,that the most important question before the court is to preserve a critically endangered species and not witness a litigation fought tooth-and-nail about whose lions they are.