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  • In the case of State of Uttar Pradesh vs Anand Engineering College, the Supreme Court observed that the Forest Department cannot inflict damages under section 33 of the Wild Life Protection Act of 1972.
  • The bench comprising Justices MR Shah and BV Nagarathna observed that for such an imposition, the authority has to initiate appropriate proceedings before the relevant court/forum in order to ascertain the damages.
  • In this case, the Forest Department alleged that an educational institution in the area at Agra-Mathura Road discharged effluents which resulted in serious environmental damage in the area and consequently endangered the wildlife in the nearby National Chambal Sanctuary.
  • Consequently, it imposed damages of rupees Ten crore on this institution. This was criticized before the Allahabad High Court which thus set aside the order imposing damages of Rupees Ten crores by holding that under the WildLife Protection Act, 1972, the Forest Department or State has no jurisdiction or authority to impose any damages.
  • Aggrieved with this judgment, the Forest Department approached the Apex Court.
  • Before the Apex Court, it was asserted that the institution continued to act in detriment to the environment and wildlife in the sanctuary, and thus the authority was justified in inflicting the damages while exercising their powers mentioned under Section 33 of the Wild Life Protection Act.
  • The court noted that as per Section 33, the appropriate authority shall have wide powers to take steps to ensure the security of wild animals in the sanctuary and the preservation of the sanctuary and its wild animals therein. Simultaneously, the authority cannot inflict damages and for that the authority has to initiate appropriate proceedings before the relevant court/forum to determine the damages.
  • The court also observed that before imposing damages of Rupees Ten crores, no show cause notice was issued to the institution calling upon them to justify cause as to why damages may not be inflicted for discharging effluent in the sanctuary, which affects the environment and wildlife in the sanctuary.
  • Consequently, the Apex Court pronounced the High Court order that had set aside the impugned order passed by the authority and observed that if the Department thinks that the institute is at fault then they can take necessary action as long as it is strictly as per law.
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