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Chipping away at our fauna bounty

The Delhi court’s refusal to slap the stringent anti-organised crime law against Sansar Chand, who is alleged to be the country’s deadliest poacher, responsible for killing over 200 tigers at the Sariska wildlife sanctuary in Rajasthan, is a disappointing news. While it is true that the court’s decision was premised upon unavailability of foolproof evidence against the man who has been held as the ringleader of a gang that had made hunting and poaching into its deplorable means of minting money, it must be taken into account that the accusations against Chand are too enormous to merit any leniency that the court has displayed towards him. The 55-year-old, who has been in jail since 2005, could easily walk free if the court orders are not stayed, putting at risk the lives of several other species which are on the verge of imminent extinction, particularly tigers, rhinos, elephants among others. Chand’s argument against being charged under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) clearly looks dressed to hoodwink the law, and an important step has been missed under sheer technical grounds, because, as the court ruled, MCOCA could not be slapped on Chand because it was filed as a supplementary charge. This, along with Chand’s securing bail in other cases pertaining to the Wildlife Act, points towards a bigger racket at work that is flexing its muscles to get the man out of jail.

Poaching is the bane that has been chipping away at India’s bountiful fauna and wildlife diversity, with tigers, rhinos and elephants being the prime targets by syndicates that torture and kill the majestic creatures for profiteering in the global skin, fur and ivory market. Chand and his ilk have been at the root of spreading this depravity, with their ruthless operations aimed at exterminating the glorious fauna and wildlife. While poaching is an extremely serious crime under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, the punishment meted out is barely enough to act as a reasonable deterrent, with the maximum sentencing of only three years, though the offence committed within the precincts of tiger reserves have stricter penalties. Poachers resort to unimaginably heinous methods such as poisoning, steel trapping and bludgeoning the animals to death in order to kill and sell them off. Given the dwindling status of our fauna, and the scale of habitat loss suffered by our prided animals, Chand’s case must be investigated thoroughly and the culprits should not be allowed to go scotfree.
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