The Supreme Court on Wednesday summoned the Uttarakhand chief secretary to appear before it on May 17 over the state’s “lackadaisical” approach in containing forest fires, reported the Hindustan Times.

A bench of Justices BR Gavai, SVN Bhatti and Sandeep Mehta observed that though multiple action plans are in place to curb forest fires, no steps are taken for their implementation.

The court also pointed out that there are several vacancies in the state’s forest department that need to be filled.

The plea in the court comes after Dhananjay Mohan, the head of the forest force, said on May 9 that five persons died as 1,300 hectares of land was burnt in forest fires in the state this year, the Hindustan Times reported.

On May 6 and May 7, 68 incidents of forest fires were reported in Uttarakhand’s Pauri Garhwal district, reported The Indian Express.

On Wednesday, the court said that the chief secretary has to explain large vacancies in the forest department, lack of fire fighting equipment, and deployment of forest officials for elections despite specific exemption granted by the Election Commission.

However, a state official told the court that the election duty had ended in Uttarakhand and that the chief secretary had directed them not to send any forest department official on poll duty, reported India Today.

The Supreme Court also asked the state why central funds were not utilised to control the forest fires, reported the Hindustan Times. The bench pointed out that out of more than Rs 9 crore disbursed by the Centre last year, only Rs 3.14 crore had been spent on preventing forest fires.

Also read: Why locals are more likely to fight some forest fires in Uttarakhand than others