SC rejects contempt plea, says tigress Avni killed in accordance with order
The Supreme Court on Friday closed contempt proceedings initiated against Maharashtra government officials over the death of man-eater tigress Avni in November 2018.
The Court issued notices to Maharashtra principal secretary Vikas Kharge, principal chief conservator forests (Nagpur), deputy conservator forests (Nagpur), deputy conservator forests (Pandharkawada) and member secretary, NTCA, on February 10 on a petition filed by a wildlife activist Sangeeta Dogra.
The petition raised doubts on the tigress being a man-eater and also pointed out that the forest officials violated the Supreme Court’s order of September 11, 2018, restraining any kind of celebrations over the death of the tigress.
On Friday, the officials who were issued notices filed their responses, claiming that there are no grounds for contempt. They said that the order to shoot the tigress was confirmed by the top court itself in its September 2018 order. On the aspect of celebration, the officers stated that they had no knowledge about the function to felicitate the shooter as it was organised by villagers. This event did not involve forest officials, they submitted to the court.
Dogra said in her petition that villagers arranged a felicitation function for the shooter, a professional hunter, on November 14, 2018. At the event, they presented a silver statue of tigress along with a cash reward to the hunter.
The bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) 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?”
The court took the statements of the officers 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 (officials) had celebrated... We cannot interfere in this case.” The court allowed Dogra to withdraw the petition.
On September 11, 2018, the Supreme Court while permitting Avni (T-1) to be shot 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.”