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Bear killing: J&K HC treats e-mail as PIL
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February 13, 2007 16:20 IST

In probably the first case of its kind, an e-mail has been treated as a public interest litigation with the Jammu and Kashmir high court issuing notices to the state government in connection with the brutal killing of a bear.

Arun Shirgaonkar, an Indian official serving with the embassy in Qatar, sent an e-mail titled 'Killing of an innocent bear in Tral, Kashmir' to Chief Justice B A Khan on December 21, 2006, about the killing of the animal by people in Pulwama district three days earlier.

Shirgaonkar, who said he and his wife were deeply affected by footage of the incident beamed on TV, sought the court's intervention in the matter.

A division bench of Chief Justice Khan and Justice J P Singh treated the e-mail as a public interest litigation and issued notices to the state chief secretary and chief wildlife warden, seeking an explanation about the circumstances in which the bear was killed and why no action was taken by the wildlife department and police.

The matter was posted for hearing on March 12.

"This communication has been received by e-mail, complaining about the killing of a bear in Tral (Pulwama) by people and wildlife officials watching all this like spectators. Similar incidents have been also reported, which violate the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1990," Khan said in his order issued on February 6.

"Notices shall accordingly go to government, to explain the circumstances in which incidents had been allowed to take place, without any action by wildlife department officials and what measures were being taken by the department to protect these animals from further harm," it said.

The court's registrar was asked by the bench to send a copy of the complaint along with notices to the chief secretary and chief wildlife warden so that they could submit their replies by March 12.

Shirgaonkar, in his e-mail, wrote, "I have recently seen on TV the gory burning and killing of an innocent bear in Tral, Pulwama. The incident was so heartrending that my wife became unconscious. I have skipped food and have not been able to concentrate on anything as those sickening images come before my eyes again and again. We feel that we have lost our own child as it were."

"It is hard to believe that human beings can go to such low levels. We had our own four-legged son, we hate to call a dog, we had brought up as our very own son for 14 years, and we felt as if he was being burnt and killed by heartless goons," he added.

"No doubt the enquiry is going on, but we doubt very much that an ordinary bear would have the leverage to move the wheels of justice already so burdened with numerous cases involving human beings," Shirgaonkar said.

He said he was writing to Chief Justice Khan "as a last resort to this gory incidence" and asked him to "take active interest in the case and do justice to the poor animal."

In the past, courts across the country have treated letters or postcards sent to them by individuals as PILs or taken suo moto cognisance of issues highlighted in media reports.

"God will always take care of you and we shall pray for your well being. You should intervene into the matter for this worthy cause. We are ready to pay for such legal proceedings should they be required even though we are people of humble means," Shirgaonkar's e-mail said.

The killing of the bear has also rocked the state Assembly, with the opposition demanding some sort of mechanism to address man-animal conflicts.

Eight leopards and two bears have been killed by people in recent months. Sixteen people were killed and 118 others injured in attacks by leopards and bears in the state in the past year.

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