Senior nationalist Congress Party leader Dharmrao Atram, who had to step down from the post of minister following the allegations of his involvement in a chinkara hunting case, has been granted interim anticipatory bail till August 19.
Justice AS Oka of the Bombay High Court has, however, directed him to appear before the Forest Department on August 18.
The HC has also directed him to appear before the sessions court in Pune on August 19 and asked the sessions judge to decide on Atram's anticipatory bail plea on merit, "without being influenced by the relief granted by the HC".
Atram's had first filed for anticipatory bail in the Pune sessions court, after he was summoned by the Forest Department. His plea was rejected on Wednesday, following which he approached the high court on Thursday.
Atram has alleged that the case is part of a political conspiracy against him, saying he first heard of the hunting of the rare gazelle in the newspapers. Admitting that a panchnama had been conducted at his residence, Atram said no substantial evidence was found.
Six people, including close friends of Atram and security guards of his Panchgani farm-house, have been arrested under the Wildlife Protection Act for hunting the protected species on the night of June 14. Atram's vehicle, bearing a red beacon, was spotted driving into the forest area by villagers, who said the vehicle contained armed men.