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Villagers who poisoned tiger cubs released as officials fail to file charges


Times of India
Rachna Singh, TNN, May 18, 2010

JAIPUR: A local court in Sawai Madhopur has released two villagers, accused of killing two 17-month-old tiger cubs, on bail after forest authorities could not file a chargesheet against them within 60 days.

The two villagers had poisoned the cubs on the outskirts of Ranthambore Tiger Reserve after the big cats killed their goats. Ram Khiladi Gujjar and Mukesh Gujjar of Tadla Khet village, on the outskirts of the reserve, were released by the court last Friday. The two were arrested on March 8, the day the cubs were found dead.

"Forest officials are responsible for not filing the chargesheet even as they had all the details. The forensic lab report had confirmed a case of poisoning; the goats' carcasses were found on the spot; and the shop from where the pesticide was identified," said Fateh Singh, vice-chairman, Tiger Watch, an NGO, in Ranthambore. "This will send a wrong message to the villagers who may take such grievous crimes lightly," added Fateh Singh.

The killing of tiger cubs had sent shock waves across the country and the state forest department acted swiftly by arresting the two accused. "We didn't file the chargesheet as third accused Narsi Gujjar is absconding," explained RS Shekhawat, deputy field director, Ranthambore Tiger Reserve.

Sources in legal circles point out that killing a tiger is a non-bailable offence. However, as per a Supreme Court verdict, if the chargesheet is not filed in such cases within the stipulated 60 days or 90 days as the case may be, the accused can be released on bail.

"The time period for filing the chargesheet varies from crime to crime. In this case, it was 60 days but the authorities mistook it for 90 days and did not file the chargesheet," said a government counsel.

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