Clamping down on resorts operating without approval in elephant corridor of Nilgiris area, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Tamil Nadu government to seal or close down within 48 hours 27 such commercial establishments.
The top court perused the report placed before it by the district collector of Nilgiris which said that resorts with restaurant were operating in the area even though they do not have approval for the same.
A bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur said that out of 39 resorts mentioned in the report, lawyers were not present on behalf of 27 such commercial establishments.
"There is no one present on behalf of the remaining 27 resorts. It is deemed that they accept the report of the collector. The report is to the effect that they are running commercial enterprises even though they do not have approval for the same," the bench, also comprising justices S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta, said.
"They are directed to be closed down or sealed by the collector. We have requested counsel for the state to do the needful within 48 hours," the bench said.
The top court granted 48 hours time to the remaining 12 resorts to produce all documents showing approval and valid title and possession for running resorts before the collector.
"In case, the collector finds that the documentation is incomplete or approval not granted, she should close down and seal the premises immediately thereafter," it said.
Regarding others, whose names were mentioned in the report, the bench said that necessary documents might be produced before the collector for verification within a period of two months from Thursday.
The court posted the matter for hearing on October 24.
During the hearing, the bench said that elephants were our "national heritage" and expressed displeasure as to how constructions had come up in elephant corridor of Nilgiris.
During an earlier hearing, one of the applicants who had raised this issue before the court had alleged that several hotels and resorts had come up in the elephant corridor areas of Tamil Nadu.
The bench had earlier made it clear that no construction activity would be carried out in those areas of the state and asked the collector of Nilgiris, where the hotels and resorts have come up, to file a report in this regard.
It had also asked the collector to inform the court as to how these establishments could be identified, when were they built and how.
The applicant had also told the court that around 18,000 elephants came to Tamil Nadu during the monsoon season and the court should direct that the power connection to these resorts and hotels be snapped.
The owners of some of these hotels and resorts have also filed appeals in the top court against a Madras High Court order against them in this regard.
The top court had earlier said it was "extremely unfortunate" that several states had not responded to two communications sent by the Centre on the issue of elephant corridors to curb incidents of human-animal conflict and reduce animal fatalities.
It had stressed on the need to have elephant corridors across the country to reduce animal fatalities due to accidents and other reasons and asked the Centre to come up with some "workable solution" in this regard.
The Centre had told the court that there were 27 "critical" elephant corridors in 22 states across the country.