The Supreme Court has banned all commercial and tourism activities within a five-km radius of the Jarawa Tribal Reserve on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands with a view to protecting the indigenous people.

A Bench of Justices G. S. Singhvi and S. J. Mukhopadhaya on Monday upheld an October 30, 2007 notification declaring an area up to a five-km radius of the Reserve a ‘Buffer Zone’ and prohibiting entry of any person other than a member of the aboriginal tribe into it.

Disposing of the appeal filed by the Andaman and Nicobar Administration against a Calcutta High Court order which had quashed the notification, the Bench said: “Henceforth no commercial and tourism-related activities shall be carried out by the administration or any private individual in violation of the prohibition contained in the notification.”

At the hearing of the appeal, the Bench had passed an order which said, “No tourist establishment such as resorts, hotels, restaurants, bars and paying guest accommodation, except government-run guest houses, will be permitted within the Buffer Zone. No commercial establishment/activities which may employ more than 20 persons or have an annual turnover of Rs. 1 crore or more will be allowed in the Buffer Zone.”

After staying the High Court’s order, the Supreme Court asked the Administration to strictly enforce the notification until it was considered by it. (the Supreme Court).

Now, rejecting the Administration’s submission to permit certain tourism and commercial activities until after the competent authority took a decision on allowing activities in the Buffer Zone, the Bench said: “In our view, the prohibition contained in the notification and the order passed by the Tehsildar, Ferrargunj, are unconditional. Therefore, till the notification is rescinded or amended, no commercial or tourism-related activity can be allowed within the Reserved Area or the Buffer Zone.”

The Bench said: “It shall be the duty of the Principal Secretary (Tribal Welfare) and other officers of the Administration to ensure total compliance with the prohibition contained in the notification and this order. Any breach of this order will entail punishment under the Contempt of Courts Act.”