The BJP’s demand for a case against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and former CM Siddaramaiah for stopping their vehicles on the road inside Bandipur Tiger Reserve is not legally tenable, according to officials and legal experts.
The BJP has tried to push the Forest Department to register a case against the two leaders on the grounds that their convoy stopped midway inside Bandipur on September 30 when the Bharat Jodo Yatra entered the Karnataka leg.
Senior officials admitted that though there is tremendous pressure to book a case for the alleged violation of the law, there is no specific rule under any act to register a case.
An advocate specializing in wildlife and forest laws said any road passing through the forest belongs to the PWD or the NH as in case of Bandipur and people are advised to not stop the vehicle inside the tiger reserve for their own safety. The boundary of the roads extends beyond the asphalted section and includes the shoulder pavement and hence a case cannot be made out for merely stopping of the vehicle on the road. There are certain rules while plying through forests and it pertains to adhering to speed limits, said the legal expert.
The department officials said it is definitely a violation only in case anyone stops the vehicle and walks into the jungles and no such thing has transpired in this incident.
Some tourists tend to stop midway to take a look at the forest or snap photo of the deer and the mobile squad does caution them and urges them to move on. But no case is registered. However, in case they enter the jungles then it becomes a violation, said the officials recalling that recently a fine of ₹25,000 was imposed on a tourist who had walked into the forest to photograph an animal.
But the advocate said given the delicate nature of the situation, political leaders should be sensitive to these issues and refrain from such acts.