SC issues contempt notice to Maharashtra officials for rewarding killers of ‘man-eater’ tigress

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New Delhi, Feb 10 (PTI) The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice on a plea seeking contempt action against Maharashtra principal secretary Vikas Kharge and eight others for rewarding people who had killed an alleged 'man-eater' tigress ‘Avni’ in Yavatmal district in 2018.

A bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian was told by animal rights activist Sangeeta Dogra that the tigress was not a man-eater as was evident from the post-mortem report of the animal.

“Issue notice returnable within two weeks. In the meantime, necessary documents will be filed,” the bench said.

During the hearing, the bench asked Dogra as to how one can identify from the post-mortem whether the animal was a man-eater or not.

Dogra replied that if an animal is man-eater it could be ascertained from the DNA reports, hair and nails remains in the intestines, which last for more than six months.

“The tigress which was killed, her stomach was empty,” she claimed.

She said that forest officials of the state ordered killing ‘Avni’ on the ground that it had killed thirteen persons in the area and was a man-eater.

“The killers of tigress were awarded by the state and there was celebration, which was in violation of the top court’s order”, Dogra said.

The bench said that it cannot control celebration but it can issue notice if people were rewarded flouting the Supreme Court order.

The top court also asked Dogra to file additional documents to substantiate her claim that the tigress was not a man-eater and said, “We want clear finding that the tigress was not a man-eater and reports on nails, hairs and teeth”.

Dogra said that she had herself visited the area and had reasons to believe that the tigress which was killed was not a man-eater.

On November 2, 2018, tigress ‘Avni’ or T1, as she was known officially, believed to have been responsible for the deaths of 13 people in Maharashtra in two years, was shot dead in Yavatmal district of the state.

'Avni was shot dead by sharp-shooter Asgar Ali, son of famous sharp-shooter Nawab Shafat Ali, at compartment no 149 of Borati forest under the jurisdiction of the Ralegaon police station,' a police official had said at that time.

The forest department has claimed that the six-year-old tigress T1, along with two of her nine-month-old cubs, have consumed 60 percent of a human corpse, which has led it to declare her a 'man-eater'.

On September 11, 2018, the top court had refused to interfere with the Bombay High Court decision and said the forest department would be bound by their own order to tranquillise her first and, in case of failure, shoot her.

“The cubs of T-1 tigress will be tranquillised and shifted to the Rescue centre. The efforts to tranquillise and capture T-1 tigress will be continued and if unsuccessful, it shall be eliminated by shooting to avoid any further loss of human life,” the top court had said.

It had said Chief Conservator of Forests, Yavatmal is authorized to carry out the above order but “he shall not declare any prize or any similar incentive for the responsible person.” PTI MNL ABA SA