When Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Manish Khurana asked 13 'victims' "where were you being taken?", some nibbled on pieces of apple inside their cage, others looked around the courtroom with beady eyes.
The peculiar scene played out at Delhi's Patiala House court complex on Wednesday afternoon, when 13 parrots, which were allegedly being smuggled to Tashkent by an Uzbekistan national, were produced in front of CMM Khurana, along with the 24-year-old accused Anvarjon Rakhmat Jonov.
Looking at two cages with six and seven birds inside, the judge asked custom officials whether the birds were prohibited from being exported.
Special Public Prosecutor P C Aggarwal, appearing for the customs department, said that after the birds were seized "to ascertain the exact description of the live parrots, the Wildlife Inspector and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, Northern Region, was called to verify the genuineness of the parrots".
"After examining them, it was confirmed that the parrots are live parakeets (of the family Psittacidae), and export of live parakeets is restricted under the EXIM (export import) policy," Aggarwal told the court.
The judge then ordered that the birds be handed over to the Wildlife department so that proper care and protection is provided to them.
It also remanded Jonov to 14-day judicial custody, which was opposed by his counsel on the ground that his client has been booked under the provision of the Wildlife Act, which is a bailable offence.
CMM Khurana dismissed the counsel's contention, saying “its (the parrots') export is banned”. The accused will now be brought before the court on October 30.
While scanning baggage at the Indira Gandhi International Airport Tuesday, security personnel had spotted images of birds in shoeboxes kept inside Jonov's bag. While he claimed they were soft toys, officials checked the boxes to find 13 parrots, most of them unconscious.
The court was told that one of the parrots flew away when the cage was opened, but it later returned on its own.
A senior CISF official said Jonov was going to board a flight to Tashkent via Uzbekistan Airways. “During questioning, he revealed that these were rose-ringed parakeets, whose demand is high in Tashkent,” said a senior officer in the customs department, adding that this is the first time someone has tried to smuggle live birds from IGI Airport.