SC refuses contempt plea, says tigress Avni killed in accordance with court order
The Supreme Court on Friday closed contempt proceedings it had initiated against Maharashtra government officials over the killing of Avni, a tigress, in November 2018.
The court had issued a notice on February 10, based on a petition filed by wildlife enthusiast Sangeeta Dogra, to Maharashtra principal secretary Vikas Kharge, the principal chief conservator, forests (Nagpur), deputy conservator, forests (Nagpur), deputy conservator, forests (Pandharkawada), and member secretary, NTCA.
The petition had questioned the assumption that the tigress was a man-eater. Dogra, in her petition, also pointed out that the forest officials violated the Supreme Court order of September 11, 2018, restraining any kind of celebration over the death of the tigress.
On Friday, the officials who were issued the notice filed a response claiming that no ground for contempt was made out. They said that the order to shoot the tigress was confirmed by the top court’s September 2018 order. Further, it was pointed out that the celebration was held by villagers and did not involve forest officials.
Dogra, in her petition, pointed out that within days after the killing, the villagers arranged a felicitation function on November 14, 2018 and presented a silver statue of the tigress along with a cash reward to the shooter involved in the killing.
The bench led by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, and comprising justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, said, “If villagers believe that they will not be attacked again and decide to celebrate, how can the forest officials ensure that they don’t celebrate?”
Further, the state officials pointed out that the order to kill the tigress was confirmed by the Supreme Court.
The bench took these statements on record and said, “We can’t review our earlier decision and say she was not a man-eater. Also, they are stating that villagers and not they had celebrated... We cannot interfere in this case.”
Dogra then sought permission to withdraw the petition and it was granted.
On September 11, 2018, the Supreme Court, while permitting Avni (T-1) to be shot down, had said, “The efforts to tranquilise 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 chief conservator of forests, Yavatmal, is authorised to carry out the above order. He shall not declare any prize or any similar incentive for the responsible person.”