Published On : Thu, Jun 29th, 2017

HC quashes PCCF’s ‘shoot at sight order’ to eliminate ‘man-eater’ tiger in Brahmapuri Range

Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court
Nagpur: The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court on Thursday quashed and set aside “shoot at sight order” issued by Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF), Maharashtra, for eliminating a “man-eater” tiger in Brahmapuri Range. The “shoot at sight order” was challenged by Dr. Jerryl Avinash Banait, a medical practitioner and an avid wild life lover and activist through a Public Interest Litigation No:-69/2017.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Justice Rohit Deo has also issued notice and directed respondents to file their reply on 20-07-2017 to the Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change, New Delhi, Principle Secretary Forest, and PCCF, Maharashtra and NTCA New Delhi on rest of the issues. The PIL is regarding illegal human entries in reserved area, poaching and hunting of wild life in reserved forests, missing of iconic Tiger Jai.

The petitioner has sought various directions in his PIL including the enquiry in miraculous disappearance of iconic Tiger Jai from Umred Karhandla Sanctuary, prevention of illegal human entries and installation of “radio collars” to all tigers.

The petitioner challenged the “shoot at sight order” passed by the PCCF under section 11 (1) of Wildlife Protection Act 1972 by which permission to kill the tiger {T-27-CUB-1} was given in Bramhapuri, Chandrapur. The High Court called the entire record and directed PCCF and all his officers to remain present in court. The court, after complete hearing, found that the impugned order of “shoot at sight” was absolutely illegal.

While quashing the impugned order, the High Court has observed that “it was passed without following the due process of law and is in violation of guidelines issued by “National Tiger Conservation Authority” on 30-01-2013. The PCCF and his counsel could not defend his order to “kill the tiger at sight”. In response to the specific queries from the High Court, the AGP Ketki Joshi replied that “no investigation was done by the forest officials in the matter of human kill in jungle.” The PCCF also failed to produce and show panchnama and comparison of camera trap photograph with National Repository Bank. The High Court also found that identification of tiger and process contemplated in NTCA guidelines was not followed.

It was stated that NTCA guidelines say that:-

{i} Under no circumstances a tiger should be killed unless it is habituated to human death.

{ii} Elimination of the tiger as “Man-Eater” should be the last resort after exhausting all the options to capture him alive.

{iii} The PCCF should record reasons in writing before declaring the tiger as man-eater.

{iv} Identity of the animal must be obtained through a committee constituted for the purpose, through camera trappings or direct sighting or pug impressions, besides collecting pieces of hair/ scats for DNA profiling.

The contention of the petitioner that the “identification of the aberrant tiger” has not been done was proved. The counsel for the Forest Department Adv. Ketki Joshi admitted to the court that the tiger in question cannot be treated as man-eater. The petitioner further stated that “two deaths” caused by the tiger have occurred in “reserved jungle”/ “Buffer Zone” where humans cannot enter normally. The illegal entry of humans in “reserved jungle”/ “protected area” is violation of Section 9 of Wildlife Protection Act 1972. Hence the tiger ought not to have been labelled as a man-eater.

The High Court accepted all the arguments advanced by the petitioner and immediately quashed the impugned orders to kill tiger. The High Court has lambasted the forest authorities for their casual and callous approach in serious issue of human safety and tiger conservation.

The petitioner has also stated in his petition that iconic tiger Jai has disappeared from Umred Karhandla Sanctuary since past one year but no efforts have been made to search the big cat. The petitioner prayed for his search. The petitioner has also narrated the incident of Tiger Srinivas who was killed in electrocution. Noting that poaching and killing of tigers is increasing day by day, the petitioner has sought directions to install “radio collars” to all tigers in Maharashtra.

Adv. Tushar Mandlekar and Adv. Rohan Malviya appeared for the petitioner. Adv. Ulhas Aurangabadkar, Assistant Solicitor General of India argued for Ministry of Environment and Forest, New Delhi. Adv. Mugdha Chandurkar represented NTCA while AGP Adv. Ketki Joshi argued for State Forest Department. PCCF A.K Mishra and CCF Vijay Shelke were specifically present in court on the directions of High Court.