The hearing in a chinkara poaching case in Pune district that last year led to an accused minister’s resignation is set to begin in May.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Dharmarao Baba Atram had to resign from his post of minister when investigators followed the trail of evidence to him and people known to him.
The chinkara is a species of gazelle — it is also known as the Indian gazelle — that is identified in Schedule Number One as an endangered species by the Forest Department.
The chinkara hunting in June at Choudhwadi village near Baramati, some 100 kilometres from Pune city, was reported by residents.
The villagers described to the police the hunting party’s vehicles, which implicated Atram along with other evidence dug up later. Range Forest Officer Hanumant Dhumal, who has been investigating the case since the beginning, said
the matter would come up for hearing on May 26 before a local court.
“The hearing in the Saswad court will be the first in the case after the evidence collection and the investigation are complete,” Dumal said. “Atram will have to be physically present during the hearing.”
In another development, six people accused in the case moved an application before the Saswad court on Friday seeking the return of their confiscated vehicles and weapons.
The six accused are Suresh Biramane, Mahesh Biramane, Ravindra Wadkar, Ravi Saheb, Ankush Sanas and Prabhakar Wagh. Among the eight guns confiscated by the Forest Department is a revolver in Atram’s name.
As not all the accused were present in court at the time the application was made, Judicial Magistrate First Class Ashvin Kulkarni postponed the hearing on it to March 5. The court directed that all the accused be present at the time of hearing.
Besides the vehicles and the guns, other things confiscated by investigators were liquor bottles, and utensils and vessels used to cook suspected chinkara meat at a Panchgani bungalow where Atram stayed.
The Forest Department even claimed it had found chinkara remains at the bungalow.
Atram and the others were subsequently arrested by the Forest Department and the NCP leader had to quit as a minister.