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HC summons police heads for hunting ban ‘flout’

In-person appearance scheduled for May 10

Debraj Mitra | Published 03.05.23, 06:38 AM
The car of a member of NGO HEAL after it was damaged allegedly by villagers and (right) an alleged hunter with a kill, an Indian hare, protected under Schedule 2 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, in a forest in Jhargram’s Lalgarh on April 13

The car of a member of NGO HEAL after it was damaged allegedly by villagers and (right) an alleged hunter with a kill, an Indian hare, protected under Schedule 2 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, in a forest in Jhargram’s Lalgarh on April 13

The high court has summoned the police chiefs of West Midnapore and Jhargram districts for allegedly failing to stop ritualistic hunting of wild animals, which the court has banned.

The police superintendents have been asked to appear in person on May 10, when a PIL on alleged police inaction in stopping hunting in forests of south Bengal will be heard next.


“It prima facie appears that the police authorities in the districts of Jhargram and Paschim Medinipur are reluctant or unable to enforce this Court’s orders.... If it is a question of inability of the authorities to execute the relevant orders of this court, if the police authorities in the aforesaid two districts are so weak and powerless, we may have to think of taking the help of other law enforcing authorities including Central Force,” the division bench of Justice Apurba Sinha Ray and Justice Arijit Banerjee said in an order on April 28.

“We do not intend to pass any order against the persons against whom allegations of deliberate inaction have been made in the current application without hearing them. Hence, we direct that the superintendents of police of the districtsof Jhargram and Paschim Medinipur be personally present before us on May 10.”

On at least three days last month, April 4, 13 and 19, several animals were killed in the forests of West Midnapore and Jhargram, alleged environmental activists, who documented some of the kills and how they were paraded like trophies.

In multiple meetings of a panel set up by the court to devise steps to stop hunting, the police superintendents of the districts had promised enough men on the ground to stop hunters and seize arms and vehicles headed towards the forests. But the promises were not fulfilled, alleged the petitioners, Human and Environment Alliance League (HEAL), an NGO.

Arijit Sinha, police superintendent of Jhargram, told this newspaper: “We have not been heard yet and the court has asked for our assistance. Other observations would be replied to when we make our submissions in court.”

Dhritiman Sarkar, police superintendent of West Midnapore, said he was yet to receive a copy of the high court order. “The necessary legal proceedings will be done after I get a copy of the order,” he said.

In an order on February 20, the division bench likened the indiscriminate hunting of wild animals to the “offence of murder”. The observations came on a contempt petition filed against the state’s chief wildlife warden for failing to comply with an earlier high court directive — on April 18, 2019 — that had barred hunting festivals in south Bengal.

The court had on February 20 constituted “humane committees” for each of the five districts — West Midnapore, Bankura, Purulia, Jhargram and Murshidabad — where the hunting ritual is witnessed on several days every year.

Each district committee is headed by a district judge. Police and railway police officers of the districts are among the members. A Kolkata-based conservationist is a common member of all five committees.

The panels of West Midnapore and Bankura met multiple times before each hunting festival to prepare in advance. A copy of the minutes of the meetings were presented to the court.

A few members of HEAL, whose petition had drawn the court’s attention to hunting festivals, were assaulted allegedly by some hunters at a forest in Jhargram’s Lalgarh on April 13. An FIR has been filed.

At least one case has also been registered against members of the NGO, under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, based on complaints by some villagers.

Siddhartha Mitra, counsel for the petitioners, said: “The court is not confident whether the police can carry out its order. Secondly, the people who volunteer to assist the cops, they have an FIR filed against them. Instead of complimenting them, you try to scare them and muzzle their voice.”

The court has barred the police from taking any “coercive” action against the members of the NGO till May 10.

Last updated on 03.05.23, 06:38 AM

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