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Orissa HC expresses displeasure over tardy progress in elephant poaching cases

A group of elephants going back to the forest after a dip in the pond near Balikiari in Cuttack district in Odisha.

A group of elephants going back to the forest after a dip in the pond near Balikiari in Cuttack district in Odisha. | Photo Credit: Lingaraj Panda

The Orissa High Court has expressed its strong displeasure over tardy progress of criminal cases filed concerning to elephant poaching cases stating that trial has not commenced in 13 out 14 cases.

In response to a public interest litigation in Orissa HC, Odisha’s Chief Wildlife Warden Sashi Paul had admitted in the affidavit that 14 elephants had been poached by smugglers in past five years. 

“While better details of the fourteen cases involving illegal poaching of elephants in the last five years have been furnished, it is plain that the mere registration of these cases has not yielded the desired result of deterring the offenders from pursuing with their crimes. The progress of the cases is also not satisfactory,” said Orissa HC Division Bench comprising Chief Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice R.K. Pattanaik.

The Bench observed, “except in one out of the fourteen cases, trial has not yet commenced in any of them”.

The affidavit mentions about 33 wildlife cases (in five years) dealt by Special Task Force (STF) Crime Branch, which has also been assigned to handle inter-State drug trafficking, tender fixing, extortion and related offences, gang robbery, kidnapping and abduction for ransom, illicit supply of arms, ammunitions and explosives, gangs involved in trade of human organs and all matters related to terrorist activities, apart from wildlife-related crimes.

“Clearly, the STF is overburdened and cannot be expected to devote special attention to the task at hand considering that the increase in number of deaths of elephants in Odisha in the recent past has been alarming,” the Orissa HC remarks.

Moreover, the court wondered, “a concerted effort has to be made to activate the law enforcement machinery for strict enforcement of the Wildlife [Protection] Act and all other related laws, including the Arms Act, as in many of these instances, the elephants were found dead or grievously injured with bullet or pellet wounds. It is surprising that in none of these cases the Arms Act has been invoked.”

Upon finding sluggish pace in trial in wildlife crimes, the Bench called for an affidavit from the Director General of Police for his views as to how the problem should be tackled. “In particular, how the investigations can be expedited, the accused arrested, the filing of the charge sheets and the conduct of the trials be expedited.” Moreover, Advocate-General has been requested to participate in the next hearing to assist the court. The next date for hearing has been fixed on August 17.

The wildlife division of State Forest Department defined poaching as intentional killings of elephants using weapons only.

“The Wildlife Department massively underplayed killing of elephants by not taking electrocution deaths into account. The department has failed to explain discovery of 13 elephant carcasses in past two months,” said Biswajit Mohanty, secretary of Wildlife Society of Orissa, an environmental pressure group.

Moreover, the court directed the department to submit status report on inquires against Forest Department officials who were accused of being involved in the elephant deaths cases.


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Printable version | Aug 25, 2022 5:28:06 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/orissa-hc-expresses-displeasure-over-tardy-progress-in-elephant-poaching-cases/article65749255.ece