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Sansar Chand CONVICTED

1st May, 2004

On 29 April 2004, the notorious wildlife criminal, Delhi-based Sansar Chand, was sentenced to five years of rigorous imprisonment by the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate of Ajmer in Rajasthan. This is the highest punishment ever awarded under The Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972.

Sansar Chand has been associated with wildlife crime virtually all his life. He was first arrested in September 1974 in a case involving a tiger skin. He was 16 years old. He was convicted in April 1982, and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for 1½ year by the Metropolitan Magistrate. However, Chand appealed to the Delhi High Court and got bail. He returned to jail in 1994 because of a NGO/WPSI petition. He then appealed to the Supreme Court, which fined him Rs.10,000 but allowed his release after he had served 6 months on the grounds that he was underage at the time the crime was committed. Since then, Sansar Chand had been connected to, implicated, or named in, about 21 wildlife cases throughout India. Many of these have been religiously followed by WPSI for over a decade. Now, 30 years later, he and one of his associates have finally been convicted and sentenced.

This particular case began on 6 January 2003 when the Bhilwara Police arrested Balwan, a resident of Haryana, in western Rajasthan. Two leopard skins were recovered. Balwan confessed that he had been paid Rs. 5,000/- by Delhi-based Sansar Chand to carry the skins and that he had supplied similar consignments to him in the past. Chand has been named in a many such cases but it was thanks to the diligent work of people such as the Mr Hemant Priyadarshy, the Superintendent of Police Railways in Ajmer, that the case led to a conviction.

But it was not without a tough legal battle. Chand's lawyers used the tactic that the police had no authority to investigate a wildlife matter. Within 24 hours, WPSI couriered a package to the investigating police officer with a detailed legal opinion from an advocate of the Supreme Court of India on how The Wild Life (Protection) Act did, in fact, allow the police to arrest, detain and search a suspect for a wildlife crime.

WPSI also supplied details on every pending case against Chand throughout India, along with a copy of his earlier conviction, and a Supreme Court judgment allowing the CBI - and by inference, any police agency - to investigate wildlife crimes. The papers were placed before the Additional Chief Railway Magistrate, Ajmer, who rejected Sansar's bail application. This crucial input from WPSI was the culmination of decades of investigating wildlife cases across the country. WPSI’s Legal Programme currently supports the prosecution of over 150 wildlife court cases in 13 states in India and is assisting the prosecution of Chand in several states, including eight cases in Delhi.

Sansar Chand has filed an appeal in the Sessions Court against the recent judgment, even as more cases against him are reported from across the country. Most recently, on 3 May 2004, eight women who were arrested in Chandrapur District of Maharashtra with traps and tiger claws, were carrying papers that clearly prove their connection to Chand. Earlier in April, men that were arrested with two leopards skins in Pauri in Uttaranchal confessed that the skins were to be supplied to Rani, Sansar Chand’s wife.




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