The Supreme Court on Friday refused to take action on a contempt plea filed against Maharashtra government officials for the killing of Avni, an adult tigress, reported Bar and Bench. The bench observed that the tigress was killed on the court’s order, and allowed wildlife researcher Sangeet Dogra to withdraw her petition.
Avni, believed to be a man-eater, was killed in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district in 2018. In her petition, Dogra had alleged that a reward was granted for the killing of the tigress flouting court orders. In 2018, the Supreme Court had said that no reward or incentive should be given for the killing of the tigress. Dogra also claimed that Avni was killed on baseless allegations that she was responsible for the death of 13 people. The Supreme Court had on February 10 issued notice to Maharashtra Principal Secretary Vikas Kharge and eight other officials.
On Friday, Chief Justice SA Bobde said that the state government informed the bench that the tigress was killed on the court’s order, and the forest officials did not participate in any celebrations after the death, according to India Today.
Bobde said that the villagers celebrated because they were happy that the tigress was killed, and asked how the conservator of forests was responsible for it.
“Officers may not have celebrated but they did not object to it,” said Dogra in the plea. “Trophy hunting is a crime. The villagers might not know that, the officials know it. The person who shot the tiger was celebrating while the investigation into the incident was going on.”
Bobde, however, refused to take up the matter, saying that trophy hunting was a serious matter, but the court cannot interfere at this stage.
On February 10, the petitioner had also submitted an autopsy report of the tigress in the court, saying that it shows that Avni was not a man-eater. “How does a post-mortem show if an animal is a man-eater or not,” Bobde had asked.
The petitioner told the court that a man-eater would have nails and hair in the intestine for six months but Avni’s stomach was empty. The bench was not convinced with the explanation and had sought more clarity on the matter.
Earlier, questions were raised on the killing of the tigress. Multiple reports had found discrepancies between what the hunting team had said about the animal’s death and its autopsy. The team had claimed Avni was killed in self-defence, while evidence showed otherwise. Forest department officials were told to shoot the animal only if the tranquillisers failed, as per Supreme Court orders. She was also shot at night, which is against the norms, and with a weapon that was not prescribed for killing such tigers.