Jan 17, 2014
In a decision which would make the forest department happy, judicial magistrate first class (JMFC) AY Borkar on Thursday rejected the bail application of tiger skin trader Suraj Pal alias Chacha. Chacha is claimed to be the biggest tiger skins and body parts smuggler after Sansar Chand, who is lodged in Tihar Jail for similar offences. The arguments on his bail plea were held for over two hours on Monday. JMFC Borkar had reserved the order for Thursday. Chacha has been charged with procuring five tiger skins through Sarju Bagdi from Amdi Fata and selling them for Rs35 lakh. Rejecting Chacha’s bail application, the court ruled that it was a serious offence which threatens environment balance of the country. The illegal wildlife trade is widespread in highly organized manner and generates huge money. Special counsel for forest department, Kartik Shukul, strongly countered defence lawyer Yogesh Satpute’s contention that Chacha was innocent and is being falsely implicated in the case. However, the court went by the case laws and confessional statements of Chacha which were corroborated with statements of other accused and call detail records (CDRs). The court also relied on Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) report submitted by the forest department which showed that samples collected from the spot in Masondi in Ghatang (Melghat) were of a tiger. The court also scrapped the view of the defence counsel that Chacha (67) was aged and there was no recovery and nothing on record to show that he was involved. However, the court said age is not an issue since he is in a dominant position to influence and pressurise other accused who are absconding. The court also supported the argument by Shukul that Chacha was a hardened criminal and has a long history of poaching since 1972 when the Wildlife Protection Act came into being. Shukul had argued that cash of Rs 50 lakh besides Chinese currency was seized from Chacha’s residence in Delhi in September. In his confessional statement, Chacha has admitted that he supplied Rs20 lakh to Sarju to procure skins from Nagpur. Satpute had stated that one of the accused, Jiyalal Bawankar from Achalpur, who was involved in manufacturing steel traps laid to kill tigers, was granted bail earlier and hence Chacha should also be released on bail. However, Shukul argued that parity can be no ground for bail as Chacha’s role in the case was different. Being the head of a biggest syndicate, he would influence other members adversely affecting investigations. He had already threatened Sarju earlier, said Shukul.
As posted in Toi.