Concern over poor conviction rate

Updated - February 19, 2016 07:33 am IST

Published - February 19, 2016 12:00 am IST - MYSURU:

When a court in Chamarajanagar sentenced an accused to two years rigorous imprisonment on the charge of electrocution of an elephant early this week, it was the first such conviction related to wildlife crime in many years.

The low conviction rate is primarily owing to the Forest Department’s failure to prove the crime by building up strong evidence and this is attributed to lack of adequate training. There have been 14 unnatural elephant deaths in south Karnataka during 2015-16 (as on January 31), while 17 elephants died the previous year. A majority of the deaths are caused by electrocution.

Wildlife activists have documented 101 unnatural elephant deaths in Karnataka between 2008-09 and 2010-11, of which 60 were attributed to electrocution. Between 2011 and 2014, there were 49 elephant deaths. However, wildlife activists aver that in most cases, the accused escape the long arm of the law because of lack of evidence and the conviction rate is less than five per cent.

Sudheer, a cyber law expert and an activist for Voice for Wildlife, told The Hindu that they drew information from the H.D. Kote Court under which there are nine wildlife divisions and out of 313 wildlife crimes tried in the local court between 2008 and 2009, there were only 32 convictions. Of this, 20 cases were treated closed after the offenders were fined but not imprisoned. “In the remaining 12 cases, the accused were sentenced for one or two months of imprisonment but the convicts would be set free on the grounds that they were already held in prison for the duration during investigation,” said Mr. Sudheer.

Wildlife First, an NGO, which obtained information statistics related to wildlife crime from Nagarahole as on September 17, 2013, indicated that charge sheets were filed only with respect to 120 out of 704 cases registered in the Tiger Reserve. The crimes pertained to poaching, timber felling, encroachment, and so on.

According to H.C. Kantharaj, Nagarahole Tiger Reserve Director, there are about 700 pending cases in the reserve area as of now.

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