Orissa High Court decries tardy, dubious probe of ‘elephant deaths’ in Odisha

Cuttack: Orissa High Court has decried the stance being taken by Odisha government pertaining to rising cases of elephant hunting in the State, an official source said today.

The court reacted to a recent affidavit filed by Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) on elephant deaths. As many as 14 cases of jumbo hunting were registered in last five years, the document read. However, only one such case has come to court for hearing, the affidavit revealed.

Progress of the probe pertaining to hunting of elephants is not satisfactory, the High Court said.

According to the source, the court wanted to know as to how many accused persons in these 14 cases relating to hunting of the pachyderms are behind the bars and how many have been granted bail. The government could not provide any convincing reply to this question.

Even as some cases have been registered as jumbos were shot at with illegal firearms, why no such case was registered under Arms Act, the court wondered. The rising number of elephant deaths in the recent past has been a matter of great concern. Adequate and timely steps should be taken by the State government to curb elephant hunting, High Court observed.

Apparent silence of state Forest department during the hearing has raised many eyebrows.

Besides, the court ordered state Director General of Police (DGP) to take steps for strict implementation of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and the Arms (Amendment) Act, 2019. The DGP should also file an affidavit regarding measures to be taken to curb the growing menace, the court insisted.

The DGP has to mention action taken on expediting jumbo death probes, timely filing of chargesheets and arrest of accused persons including quick trial of registered cases, in his affidavit.

The High Court also took involvement of Forest department staff in some of the elephant hunting cases very seriously, after the court’s attention was drawn by the plaintiff Geeta Rout’s counsel towards jumbo deaths in Athagarh and few other forest divisions in the State.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice R.K Pattanaik heard the case. The next date of hearing was posted for August 17.

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