Forest department officers who claim to have nabbed poachers red-handed have now been directed to appear in a test identification parade before the accused.
The parade was ordered after a proactive police officer met an accused in judicial custody and recorded a statement accusing forest officers of torture.
Kollengode forest range officials insist there are irregularities in the case. “The poachers did not complain of torture when they were taken to the Magistrate after the arrest. The allegations were made almost a week after their arrest and confession,” said Range Forest Officer Nibu Kiran. Legal experts also pointed out that it was highly unusual for a police officer to visit an accused in judicial custody at the sub-jail to take down his statement.
According to the investigators, the six poachers were found in the core area of the Nelliampathy forest by a team of eight forest officers early in December 2012. Mr. Kiran said the officers overpowered two of the six poachers carrying country-made guns. Four other poachers surrendered before the forest officers later.
Forest officers have recorded the seizure of a dead boar, bear skin, bear meat, animal fat, flashlights and lead pellets from the site.
The controversy began when the Sub-Inspector of the Parambikulam police station visited a poacher, Saji, in judicial custody and recorded his statement accusing the forest officers of torturing him. “ He said four forest officials he could identify had tortured him and pulled his nails out,” said SI Samsaranathan, who recorded the allegations against the forest officials. Based on the allegations, the police filed an application for identification parade of all 27 forest officers at the Kollengode range before the Palakkad Chief Judicial Magistrate. The accused were later let out on bail.
A doctor at the Primary Health Centre at Nenmara, where the accused were taken, said Saji’s nails were removed by doctors at the centre for medical reasons. “His nail had been cut partially. If left like that, it would not have grown back,” said the doctor.
Forest officers suspect the allegations were made to get the accused out on bail. “This is revenge. They are trying to humiliate us by parading all 27 of us in front of the poachers,” said an officer
Deputy Forest Officer of the Nenmara range Raju Francis said such acts would lower the morale of forest officers. Forest oficers have obtained a stay on the identification parade from the high court.