Mumbai

File cases against Avni’s shooter: panel

Citizens take part in the protest and candlelight vigil after the killing of tiger Avni (T1) in the Borati forest in Maharashtra.   | Photo Credit: K_MURALI_KUMAR

The State level panel inquiring into Avni or tigress T1’s death has called for ‘immediate’ registration of cases against sharp shooter Asghar Ali Khan, who it not only considered ‘prima facie guilty of unauthorised shooting’ to kill the tigress, but also for ‘clandestinely’ tampering with evidence by removing the weapons and scheduled drugs used in the killing to Hyderabad without informing authorities.

The committee led by the State’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) Dr. S.H. Patil noted that this “opens up the possibility of such important evidence being tampered with. Therefore, appropriate cases should be immediately registered against Mr. Khan under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, by the forest authorities and under the Arms Act and the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act by the police authorities”.

The committee’s 35-page report, submitted on December 5 last year, also moots a thorough investigation into the role and culpability of Shafath Ali Khan and other members of the private team of hunters who were involved in the operations against Avni.

Maharashtra’s Finance, Planning and Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar confirmed the receipt of the expert committee’s report and said it had been sent for legal scrutiny to ascertain if the recommendations are within the prescribed rules and forest department guidelines.

“The committee has submitted its report and we are establishing its facts. As for the role of the shooter, once he submits a copy of licence we will examine if there were any loopholes in his conduct. There are two facts to be scrutinised: one, whether he had a licence or not and the other if the shooting was without prescribing to guidelines,” he said, stressing that the government is looking at both the aspects.

“Maharashtra is one of the most progressive States as far as protection of wild animals is concerned. It is not a question of just one tigress but over the past few years we have taken a number of steps such as fencing and lighting the buffer zone and forest areas to protect various species. We have been doing our best irrespective of what the committee has observed,” said Mr. Mungantiwar, assuring that the guilty will be brought to book if rules were found violated.

The removal of problem tigers, the committee said, is a “necessary evil” and needs management intervention to ensure continued local public support for tiger conservation efforts. It said, “Unless there is a human casualty and a search for victim’s remains is involved, large scale ‘combing’ operations to follow tigers should be avoided. Instead, small teams of skilled spoor trackers should be employed to locate the tigers and if possible use dogs trained specifically for tracking down tigers.”

The government should plan and establish one or more specialised “wild animal damage control unit”, with sufficient mobility, equipment, resources and authority to move across forest jurisdictions including areas under the forest corporation and to swiftly address conflict and depredations in the State, the committee has mooted.

“It is critical that such a unit should be led by a forest officer supported by a team of personnel with specialized knowledge of carnivore ecology, field tracking skills, veterinary and chemical capture skills, shooting and firearm skills. Only such personnel should be identified and posted to these specialized units,” the panel has said, backing the creation of a specially trained cadre of veterinarians for all tiger reserves and territorial divisions that have sizeable large carnivore populations.

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 6:04:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/file-cases-against-avnis-shooter-panel/article26241981.ece

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