Maneka Gandhi demands arrest of Tigress T1 shooter, foresters booked

NAGPUR: After the report by (NTCA) nailed Hyderabad-based sharp shooter Asghar Ali Khan and his team for glaring lapses in eliminating Pandharkawda tigress T1, union child and women welfare minister on Thursday demanded his immediate arrest, and action against forest officials too.

“The NTCA report has vindicated my stand about serious lapses in T1 killing. There can be no exceptions, and officials in-charge of the operation should also be removed and booked for colluding with the shooter. The state government should take action now,” said Gandhi.

When asked whether she was going to move court on the issue, Gandhi said, “First let us see what action government takes against the erring shooter and officials, then we will decide the course of action.”

As reported by TOI on Thursday, the NTCA findings have not only nailed the shooter, but have also cast aspersions on the chief warden, who delegated powers vested under Section 11(1) (a) of Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 to CCF (territorial) PG Rahurkar, authorizing Shafath Ali Khan to capture or eliminate T1.

NTCA report states, “Chief wildlife warden can delegate all powers under Section 5(2) of WPA 1972, except powers vested under 11(1) (a), which empowers him to permit any person to capture or eliminate (Schedule I species). This is violation of Section 5(2) of the said Act.”

The NTCA report also calls for ballistic and forensic report, and other lab reports along with final post mortem report as evidence to further corroborate its findings.

However, Regional Forensic Science Laboratory (RFSC), Nagpur, has taken a stand that no ballistic analysis can be conducted unless the weapon used in killing the tiger is submitted. Even after a month other forensic and lab reports have also not been submitted.

Now that the NTCA report has nailed Asghar Ali Khan, a section of wildlife experts and even forest officials said, on condition of anonymity, “A probe should be initiated against Khan under WPA 1972 by registering an offence. The NTCA has made it clear that Asghar killed T1 illegally.”

However, they said, it is difficult whether officials involved will be transparent. “Despite knowing who killed T1, a POR was registered against an unknown person to dilute the offence. There is pressure on investigation officer (IO) not to go ahead with Khan probe. There is wilful violation of various SOPs of NTCA.”

As per the SOP to deal with tiger deaths “all tiger deaths will be considered as poaching until it is proven as natural death or otherwise. Hence, the IO shall submit detailed inquiry report to chief wildlife warden”.

“If ballistic analysis is not done, how will the final report be submitted to chief wildlife warden under Section 11(2) to prove self-defence theory. The case will be closed clandestinely. Even after issuing summons to Asghar, he is not turning up. This shows his arrogance and hence POR should be registered against him,” they told TOI.

The NTCA report also states that Khan does not remember the immediate incidents and happening after shooting T1. “He did not act on repeated communication by forest department to submit the weapons used and empty cartridge for further scrutiny. He failed to produce his own all India weapon licence to the NTCA committee, which he claimed to possess in his written statement. This indicates that he is hiding information,” it said.

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