While Gujarat government has already moved a curative petition in Supreme Court as its last legal resort to retain its Asiatic lions, speculations are rife in Madhya Pradesh that National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) might reconsider its earlier recommendations once Modi takes charge as chairman. The Prime Minister is the ex-officio chairman of the board.
During former PM Manmohan Singh's tenure, NBWL had opposed Gujarat government's plea in Supreme Court. And the wildlife board's recommendation had a significant role in Supreme Court's April 15 verdict on shifting lions to MP in six months.
Moved by criticism, Modi had even got a review petition filed to stop transfer of the pride of lions to MP. This was also dismissed. Filing a curative petition was last legal resort left with Gujarat, said sources.
But in another blow to MP's hopes, two Gujarat-based NGOs have filed separate petitions challenging translocation of lions to Kuno.
First, a writ petition was filed by Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT), a Rajkot-based NGO, which claimed that certain facts were not brought to notice of Supreme Court. This petition was admitted in February. Last week, Supreme Court sent a notice to MP government to respond within a month.
Another was filed this month by Ahmedabad-based Priyavrat Gadhvi - a bio-technologist and member of the Gujarat State Wildlife Board. He claimed the Supreme Court was kept in dark on the importance of Madhya Pradesh's Kuno-Palpur sanctuary as an important natural corridor for tiger dispersal. Gadhvi said Kuno is a migration corridor for tigers of the Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan to Madhav National park in MP. The petition has been admitted, but is yet to come up for hearing.
MP's chief wildlife warden Narendra Kumar said, "We will submit our reply soon to the court notice on Rajkot-based NGO's petition." Another plea is yet to come for hearing, he told TOI. He refused to comment on speculations about Modi's role as NBWL's chairman.
State forest minister Gauri Shankar Shejwar said it would be too early to jump on any conclusion. "It's a process which will take time. Matter will be discussed after Modi's oath," he said.