Blackbuck verdict raises hope for chingara killing case involving NCP’s Atram in Pune
Bollywood actor Salman Khan’s conviction in the blackbuck poaching case has brought the focus back on another major poaching case involving former state transport and tribal welfare minister Dharmarao Baba Atram.
Salman was convicted by the Jodhpur court on Thursday for poaching a blackbuck, a protected antelope species, on a film shoot location some 20 years ago. The actor was sentenced to five years in prison.
Atram, a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader, was charged with the killing of a Chinkara deer on June 14, 2008, at Gulunche village near Baramati in Pune district. The alleged poaching by Atram cost him his minister status as reports about the incident were highlighted in the media, leading to his arrest.
However, even after 10 years, the case hasn’t reached trial stage at Saswad court, as Atram has taken objection to the statements recorded from witnesses.
Despite several attempts, Atram could not be reached for his comment.
“The defence had objected to the statement recorded by divisional forest officer SG Dhumal in the lower court. Therefore, the prosecution had approached the Bombay high court in 2014. Since the high court hasn’t given its ruling on the matter, the case is still pending,” said Bhimsen Jadhav, sub-divisional forest officer, Bhor division.
Atram, hailing from eastern Vidarbha, was accused of killing Chinkara, a protected animal under Wild Life Protection Act, 1972, when he was on official duty. According to prosecution, Atram, along with other accused in the case, hunted the animal, took its carcass to the government guest house at Panchgani in the neighbouring Satara district and consumed its meat. The police, during its investigation, seized vehicles used for killing Chinkara and the remains of the animal’s skin.
As villagers saw three vehicles coming down in the night and people travelling in them getting down to hunt Chinkara, they noted down the vehicle numbers. One of the three vehicles was of Atram, said the prosecution. In the Salman Khan case too, it was the Bishnoi community members who highlighted the incident leading the conviction of the actor.
Eight people were booked in the case including Atram, his friends, driver, and security guard. “It’s a clear case and should have been disposed off quickly,” said Sandip Mahure, a local resident from Gulunche village.
When asked about whether the delay was deliberate, Jadhav refused to comment saying “the matter is subjudice”.