SC keeps hands off tigress 'shoot' order

Try to tranquillise first: court

By Our Legal Correspondent
  • Published 12.09.18

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday permitted the Maharashtra forest department to "tranquillise, and in case of failure, shoot at" a tigress that has become a man-eater and since September last year killed 12 people in the state's Ralegaon forest area.

The bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta passed the order while refusing to interfere with a Bombay High Court decision upholding the September 3 "shoot at sight" orders issued by the Maharashtra forest department.

The Supreme Court, however, said that since the forest department had stated in its September 3 order that first an attempt must be made to tranquillise the animal and only if all efforts fail should it be shot at, the officials concerned must explore the possibility of tranquillising the animal.

Only if the efforts fail can the tigress be shot at, Justice Lokur, heading the bench, said.

The apex court passed the order while dealing with two appeals filed by the NGO Earth Brigade Foundation and animal activist Jerryl Banait challenging the high court order.

The Maharashtra government's standing counsel, Nishant Katneshwar, said the forest department had been making efforts to trap the tigress in the Pandharkawda forest division through tranquillisers for the past six months, but the efforts had failed so far.

Senior advocate Anand Grover and advocate Aastha Sharma, appearing for the two petitioners, however, said the mere fact that some people had been killed did not make the tigress a man-eater per se.

"A distinction has to be made between a tigress killing a human and a habitual man-eater," Grover said.

Responding to a query from the bench, Katneshwar said only one tigress and her two cubs lived in the region where 12 persons had been killed.

"There is no other tiger there, except this tigress and her two cubs. The closest tiger, which is a male, is 7km from the spot of the incident," the Maharashtra government lawyer said. He pleaded that if the tigress was not tackled then there was a possibility of the two cubs also turning into man-eaters in the near future.

Grover, however, argued that the tigress could not be held responsible if people entered the forest. He submitted that there was no evidence to link the deaths of the people to the tigress.