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Tigress Avni killing | Supreme Court declines to proceed on contempt action against Maharashtra forest officials

A tigress at the Tippeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district. Photo: Special Arrangement
Legal Correspondent New Delhi 26 February 2021 13:16 IST
Updated: 26 February 2021 23:44 IST

Bench realised the decision to kill ‘man-eater’ tigress Avni had been confirmed by the court itself.

The Supreme Court on Friday declined to proceed further with a contempt action against Maharashtra forest officials over the killing of Avni, a “man-eater” tigress, in 2018, after realising that the decision to kill the cat had been confirmed by the court itself.

“If the decision to kill the tigress was confirmed by the Supreme Court, we are not going to reopen it,” Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde, leading a three-Judge Bench, addressed petitioner Sangeeta Dogra.

Ms. Dogra persisted that the officials took part in “celebrations” after the tigress was shot down. “The investigation [into the death of the tigress] was going on, how could they celebrate at a function?” Ms. Dogra claimed.

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Advocate Kartik N. Shukul, for the forest officials, however categorically denied that his clients were “directly or indirectly” a part of any celebrations.

Chief Justice Bobde said the celebrations may have been by the villagers. “The officers have sent a note that they have not celebrated,” the CJI said.

The court allowed Ms. Dogra to withdraw even as the latter said she had presented a “very serious issue”.

“It is a very serious issue but we cannot interfere at this stage… Next time you come in advance. We will stop it,” Chief Justice Bobde addressed the petitioner.

In the previous hearing, the court had issued notice to Vikas Kharge, Principal Secretary, Department of Revenue and Forests, Mumbai, and other Maharashtra Forest Department officials on Ms. Dogra’s contempt petition.

The court had, last time, also decided to examine the claim that the tigress was really a man-eater. Avni is claimed to have killed 13 villagers. The animal was reported to have been shot dead near Borati village in Yavatmal by a team of Forest Department officials and civilian hunter Asgar Ali.

The incident had triggered outrage among wildlife activists, who alleged that no efforts were made to tranquillise Avni and they called it “murder in cold blood”.

Officials had, at the time, said a team of three Forest Department personnel and Mr. Ali shot the tigress, officially known as T-1, on the Borati-Warud Road in Yavatmal, news reports said.

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