Hyderabad: The Supreme Court on Friday, refused to take action against a contempt petition filed against the Maharashtra government for the killing of tigress Avni in 2018. The top court stressed that the man-eater tigress was killed as per the top court's order, which culminated in the withdrawal of the petition thus ending the case.
Tigress Avni or T1 was killed by Hyderabad based-shooter, Nawab Shafath Ali Khan's son Asghar Ali Khan, and forest officials in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra in 2018. Following the animal's death, a furore broke out among animal activists leading to Sangeeta Dogra moving the Supreme court, seeking action against those linked to the death.
In September 2018, the Maharashtra government invited Hyderabad's sharpshooter Nawab Shafath Ali Khan and his son to kill tigress Avni. The government contended that the tigress had killed 13 villagers up until then and had traumatised close to 11 surrounding villages. Avni was reportedly moving with her three sub-adult cubs. Based on a written order, a team of five civilian hunters left to Yavatmal district to find tigress.
Narrating the episode, Nawab Shafath Ali Khan told NewsMeter, "On November 2, 2018, on the day of the operation, we uncovered a deep-rooted conspiracy. The veterinary doctors without any author or sanction had smuggled in another tiger's urine from Nagpur. The men sprinkled the urine at the spots where Avni's footmarks were found in the camera traps. Since she was moving with her sub-adult cubs, she had turned extremely aggressive. According to the rule, no operation (tranquilisation) was allowed in the dark."
He further said a series of incidents took place beginning with the disappearance of the veterinary doctor. While Asghar Ali Khan and his team of four civilian hunters were travelling in an open gypsy, Avni was spotted crossing the road. One of the team members, Mukbhir Sheikh, fired a tranquilizing dart at her. The moment the dart hit her, she turned and charged towards the gypsy. When she was about to pounce on them, Asghar shot her from point-blank range. She died a painless death on the spot. After hearing the news, villagers in the surrounding areas celebrated and carried Asghar in a procession.
"When another tiger's urine is sprinkled, the animal witnesses 'induced- territorial aggression'. This is what happened to Avni. This act turned even more furious," he added.
In the petition, Sangeeta Dogra alleged that the killing was only for trophy hunting. "The state authorities (referring to the Maharashtra government) had arranged an event following the hunt, during which a silver idol of a tigress was handed to Ali," the petitioner said. She questioned the manner through which the Maharashtra government concluded that Avni was a man-eating tigress.
According to a report in NDTV, the petitioner had earlier cited post mortem and DNA reports to argue that T1 was not a man-eater, after which the court agreed to examine the matter. "How does a post-mortem show if an animal is a man-eater or not?" Chief Justice SA Bobde had asked in the last hearing. Dogra replied that a man-eater would have nails and hair in the intestine for six months but this tigress' stomach was empty.
However, on Friday, Dogra was told by the Chief Justice, "You did not tell us. We can't review the decision that she was not a man-eater. If the decision to kill that tigress was confirmed by the top court in earlier litigation, we are not going to reopen it (the case)."
The Supreme Court heard the case for two years and concluded that the killing of Avni was carried out by the top court's order and the forest officials were not part of the incident.
Responding to the SC closing the case, Nawab added, "This was expected from the Supreme Court because all procedure was followed. We were invited for the operation by written orders and Avni was a confirmed man-eater. Thirteen humans were killed by her out of which five were confirmed by DNA analysis. After she was on shot on November 2, 2018, not a single human kill was reported. Time has proved that the forest department identified the right man-eating tigress and killing her saved human lives."
The killing happened after 12 failed attempts to tranquilize Avni in a span of two-and-half years.