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Kerala elephant death: Plea in Supreme Court seeks probe by CBI or SIT

Kerala elephant death: Plea in Supreme Court seeks probe by CBI or SIT

New Delhi: A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking probe by the CBI or a special investigation team (SIT) into the recent death of a pregnant wild elephant after it ate a fruit containing firecrackers in Kerala's Silent Valley Forest.

The 15-year-old elephant fell victim to an act of human cruelty after the fruit filled with powerful crackers, offered allegedly by locals, exploded in her mouth when she chomped it. The elephant died in the Velliyar River on May 27.

The plea filed in the apex court has alleged that prima facie it appeared to be a "calculated and organised" racket to kill elephants and that the authorities have failed to prevent such killings of protected animals.

Referring to media reports, the plea filed by Delhi-based advocate Avadh Bihari Kaushik has said that in April this year a similar incident had come to light in which an elephant, which was found with mouth injuries in Pathanapuram forest range in Kerala's Kollam district, had died.

The plea has also urged the apex court to call for the entire record of these cases along with similar incidents, if any, regarding killing of elephants in Kerala and in other states. It has sought a direction for transferring the case of killing of the pregnant elephant and similar incidents to the CBI "under the constant monitoring" of the top court.

The plea has said that alternatively, the court should direct setting up of an SIT, headed by a former judge of the apex court, to probe into the cases of repeated killings of elephants in various parts of the country.

It said the SIT should examine the issue at a larger scale and also suggest proper mechanism to curb the menace and to nab and punish the culprits to avoid such incidents in future. "No fair, impartial and uninfluenced investigation and prosecution at the hands of the local state police is possible inasmuch as the matter involves political and money powers and therefore, the investigation is required to be conducted from an impartial, independent central agency in a fair and transparent manner under the monitoring of this court or by an SIT...," the plea said.

The plea said that the Government of India had launched Project Elephant in 1992 to support the states in protecting the animal, their habitats and migration corridors. "However, all the efforts made by the central and state governments are failing for the simple reason that the poachers and killers are more committed to their job as compared to the agencies appointed to nab them and therefore, the incidents like the present one are repeatedly occurring," the plea said.

The National Green Tribunal has taken cognisance on the death of the pregnant elephant and has formed a committee and directed it to submit an action-taken report in the matter.

According to a preliminary post-mortem report, the elephant had major wounds in its oral cavity, most likely following an explosive blast due to which she could not eat for nearly two weeks leading to her collapse in a river and drowning.

Drowning followed by inhalation of water leading to lung failure was the immediate cause of the animal's death, said the report prepared on May 28.

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