The Karnataka High Court on Thursday directed the State government and the Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR) Ltd. to submit an application within a month to the Union government seeking consent — under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 — for the lodges operated in permanent structures built using materials such as bricks in the forest area of Dubare elephant camp in Kodagu district.
A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Mohammad Nawaz issued the direction during the hearing of a PIL petition filed by P.S. Mohan and four others from Kushalnagar in 2016 challenging constructions carried out by JLR in the forest area in Dubare camp.
Claiming that lodges are among non-forest activities, the petitioners contended that JLR is carrying out these activities sans approval of the Union government under Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act.
It was pointed out to the Court on behalf of the petitioners that JLR had constructed such lodges in several forest areas without approval from the Central government. The petitioners
Observing that photographs produced in the petition show that structures were built using bricks and Mangaluru tiles for the cottages, and in one location four pillars were erected to support a cottage built with bricks, the court said “ex-facie these structures appeared to be permanent in nature”.
Both the government and the JLR had contended that running a lodge in the forest area is an eco-tourism activity that is permissible as per the policy of the Union government, and this activity will not require permission of the Union government under Section 2 of the Act.
Refusing to accept the contentionsof the Government and JLR, the Bench said that either the government or the JLR should submit an application to the Union government within a month and report compliance to the court by October 23.