Television actors Shruti Ulfat, Pearl Puri and two producers - Utkarsh Bali and Nitin Solanki - were sent to one day judicial custody by the Mumbai forest range on Wednesday.
According to forest officials, Ulfat and Puri posed with a spectacled cobra, a protected and venomous species, for a television show and posted it on social media platforms in October. “The four persons were arrested on Wednesday afternoon and will be produced in court on Thursday,” said Santosh Kank, range forest officer, Mumbai division. “They will be kept at the Thane forest range till they are produced on Thursday.”
Kank added that the actors had committed the violation under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, by posing with the protected snake. “We made a compact disc of the actors’ images from Instagram and sent it to the Kalina Forensic lab since they claimed it was a graphic image. The results disclosed that the snake was real and we then initiated action,” he said.
NGO Plants and Animals Welfare Society (PAWS Mumbai) had first filed the complaint with the forest department in October. “We are happy that action has been taken against celebrities violating the law that protects animals. However, the forest department is yet to nab the snake rescuers that provided them the cobra,” said Sunish Subramaniam Kunju, secretary, PAWS Mumbai.
Other animal activists said the case will set an example for the small and big screen industry that such illegal acts will not be tolerated.
“Supplying of wild animals to film city is an organised crime and has been happening since a long time. Exploiting animals and protected species for entertainment is ethically and legally wrong,” said Pawan Sharma, president, Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare (RAWW), an NGO that aided the anti poaching unit and Mumbai range during their investigation at Film City, Goregaon.