The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to interfere with a Bombay High Court order, which permitted the forest department to tranquillise or shoot a “man-eating” tigress, PTI reported.

The six-year-old animal, called T1, a mother to two nine-month-old cubs, has allegedly claimed at least nine lives in Ralegaon forest in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district.

Officials of the forest department have declared T1 a “man-eater” as the animal, along with her cubs, ate 60% of a human corpse. Last month, T1 allegedly killed three people. Over the last six months, officials have attempted to tranquillise the tigress but failed because of a number of reasons, the forest department told a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta.

However, a petition in court claimed that the forest department had failed to establish that the corpse was eaten by the tigress and her cubs. It said that if the animal was shot dead, the cubs would not be able to survive by themselves. The petition also alleged that the forest department has already roped in a “sharp shooter” to kill the tigress, instead of first trying to tranquillise her.

The Supreme Court said that the forest department would be bound by its own order to first tranquillise the animal and, if it failed, to shoot her.

If the tigress kills those who enter the forest, it does not mean that she is a man-eater, said senior advocate Anand Grover. “A distinction has to be made between a tigress killing a human and a habitual man-eater,” he said.

However, the forest department responded by saying that the postmortem report shows a puncture wound on the victim’s neck, which means the tigress was responsible for the kill.

“The two cubs may also become man-eaters if action is not taken,” said the lawyer on behalf of the forest department.