A contempt petition against Maharashtra forest officials for killing a tigress in 2018 was withdrawn today by an animal rights activist after the Supreme Court refused to take action against them, stressing that the “man-eater” was killed as per the top court’s orders.
The petitioner, Sangeeta Dogra, had approached the Supreme Court seeking contempt action against those linked to the killing of the tigress, also known then as Avni or T1.
The killing was carried out in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district by a team of forest officials and a civilian hunter named Asgar Ali. Ms Dogra had alleged that state authorities had arranged an event following the hunt, during which a silver idol of a tigress was handed to Mr Ali. “This certainly is an act of trophy hunting which was gifted through the hands of villagers…” the petition alleged.
Today, the top court was told by the state government that the killing was carried out as per the court’s order and the forest officials did not participate in any event. “None of the forest officers – directly or indirectly – participated in the celebration. And the (probe) report also confirms… the Supreme Court order was followed,” the court was told.
Chief Justice SA Bobde then asked the petitioner: “The villagers celebrated because they were relieved because tiger won’t attack… how can the (forest) officials be responsible?”
“Person who shot the tigress was part of the celebration. Even though committee report was not submitted while probe was on… why celebrate?” Ms Dogra replied, underscoring that “officials did not object to the celebration”.
The petitioner had earlier cited post mortem and DNA reports to argue that T1 was not a man-eater, after which the court agreed to examine this matter. “How does a post mortem show if an animal is a man-eater or not?” Chief Justice SA Bobde had asked in the last hearing. Ms Dogra replied that a man-eater would have nails and hair in the intestine for six months but this tigress’s stomach was empty.
This morning, Ms Dogra was told by the Chief Justice: “You did not tell us. We cant review the decision that she was not a man-eater. If the decision to kill that tigress was confirmed by the top court in earlier litigation, we are not going to reopen it (the case).”
Ms Dogra told the court it was a “serious issue”. “Yes, it is (a) very serious issue… we can’t interfere. Will you withdraw it (petition)?” the Chief Justice asked, adding the other option was to dismiss the plea. To this, Ms Dogra replied that she is withdrawing the petition.