Madras HC forms SIT to probe 19 elephant poaching cases – The New Indian Express

Chennai News

Express News Service

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Tuesday constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe 19 cases of elephant poaching, most of which took place between 2013 and 2018 and remain unsolved. 
The SIT, led by CBI Superintendent of Police Nirmala Devi, includes CBI Deputy Superintendent of Police Santhosh Kumar, former Chief Wildlife Warden Shekhar Kumar Niraj, Deputy Conservator of Forests R Rajmohan, and IPS officer Mohan Nawaj. 

A Divisional Bench of justices V Bharathidasan and N Satish Kumar ordered the SIT to begin the investigation from May 15 and submit a preliminary report by June 10. Thirteen of the 19 cases had been deliberately under-reported to hush-up the killings, sources told TNIE. 

A 2019 report by Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), which is in public domain now, highlighted instances of under-reporting poaching, especially in the Coimbatore division. For instance, for the killing of three elephants on three different occasions in the Sigur range of Coimbatore division by the same accused, only one case was registered. 

“Only two or three persons’ names were mentioned as accused. Though their statement is very clear about the persons involved in the poaching, their names were not at all included in the accused list (sic),” the report said, adding that poor investigation and follow-up of the case led to the poaching of more elephants in Coimbatore and other forest divisions in Tamil Nadu for over ten years.

A statement by Babu Jose (an accused) recorded in the Sigur range in 2015 showed that he collected 16 pairs of tusks, which means eight elephants had been killed. As such, at least eight cases must have been registered, which didn’t happen. Moreover, Aji Bright, who bought all the ivory (over 300 kg) from Babu Jose in Tamil Nadu, was not included in any of the poaching cases, the report says. Initially, the Kerala forest department was keen on joining the SIT as most of the ivory trade and poaching had an inter-state connection. It, however, failed to be present during the last few hearings, forcing the high court to constitute SIT without an official from Kerala. 

Meanwhile, the Madras High Court has put on hold the committee constituted by the Tamil Nadu forest department to investigate the elephant deaths that took place in the last one year across the State after the petitioner’s counsel raised objection over the choice of officials  included in the committee.