Uttarakhand HC orders probe into violations in leopard’s rescue
Taking cognisance of the report published in Hindustan Times on October 5 regarding violations during the rescue operation of an injured leopard in Bageshwar, the Uttarakhand high court on Monday ordered an inquiry against the divisional forest officer (DFO) of Bageshwar.
The high court division bench, comprising acting chief justice Rajiv Sharma and justice Manoj Kumar Tiwari, directed the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest to enquire about the conduct of the divisional forest officer and designated the Bageshwar district magistrate to hold an inquiry into the alleged incident and file a report in a sealed cover to the court on or before October 24, the next date of listing.
The high court directed the forest department through its secretary to ensure that all the animals are rescued as per the standard operating procedure. “One officer/official from the civil administration should be on the spot while undertaking rescue operations. It shall be open to the district administration to invoke Section 144 of CrPC to control unruly mob,” the court stated.
The high court also directed the state government to file a counter affidavit within two weeks.
“We have taken cognizance of the news item which appeared in the daily edition of Hindustan Times on 05.10.2018. It is stated in the news item that the Forest Department’s officer/officials in Bageshwar appear to have violated the protocol laid down by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) for the rescue of injured animal,” the court observed.
The court said the leopard was tied in ropes and it was being attacked by villagers. “The man who was leading the attack was one Jagdish Singh. The Divisional Forest Officer, Bageshwar, has tried to give clean chit to the villagers, who attacked the injured leopard. The Forest Department should have followed the standard operating procedure to avoid clouding by locals,” the order stated.
The HC maintained that one of the officials responsible to maintain law and order should have been on the spot. “In case, there was an unruly mob, it was always open for the district administration to invoke Section 144 of CrPC. Hind limbs of the animal were found to be paralyzed. It should have been treated by veterinary doctor immediately,” the order stated.
The high court also noted that a shocking incident was reported in HT that a caged leopard was burnt alive by a crowd in Kalagarh Forest Division near Corbett when it was being shifted by the Officials. “These things cannot be permitted to go on unchecked,” the court stated.
On October 5, HT had reported that during the rescue operation of an injured leopard in Bageshwar district, a 48-year-old man, Jagdish Singh, was attacked by the leopard in self defence, as Singh went very close to the animal and it was prodded by thick wooden branches.
The incident was caught on a mobile phone and later went viral on social media. HT had reported that the standard operating procedure (SOP) laid down by the Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) 2013 to deal with an emergency arising due to straying of tigers or leopards in human-dominated landscapes was not followed in the case. The protocol makes it clear that collector/DM and SSP/SP of the area should be proactively involved to maintain law and order in the area, besides avoiding crowding by local mobs. The protocol also states that when tigers or leopards stray into a human-dominated landscape, the district authorities need to ensure law and order by imposing section 144 of the CrPc.
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