Court orders probe into role of officials after accused walks free

A Delhi court has directed the Chief Wildlife Warden and Delhi Commissioner of Police to investigate the role of six wildlife officials on charges of “dereliction of duty” and “callousness” after an accused, who was arrested with two leopard skins, was acquitted.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ajay Garg initiated action after the accused, Lokpal, was acquitted by the court. The court accused wildlife officials of conducting a “botched up investigation.”

“I would like to place on record that the case is a classic example of a botched up investigation resulting in the waste of precious judicial time of the Court and all concerned,” the judge said in his order.

“In order to deprecate such a practice on the part of police officials as well as wildlife officials, I deem it appropriate to direct the Chief

Wildlife Warden concerned, as well the Commissioner of Police, to take appropriate action against members of the raiding team for dereliction of their duties and callous approach,” he added.

The court also directed that a copy of the order be sent to the Chief Wildlife Warden and the Commissioner of Police, Delhi.

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The accused, Lokpal, had been arrested in March 2014 in a DDA Park located in Samaypur Badli, in north-west Delhi. Officials said that he was in possession of one plastic bag and one rexine bag, each containing a leopard skin. When approached, he failed to show any valid licence or documentation, as to why he was in possession of the skins.

The court contended that investigation had been botched because there were glaring contradictions in the case. “The identity of the case property is also disputed as CW-4 (CW-4 is the Sub Inspector Sandeep) in his cross-examination deposed that the skins were without teeth and nails, whereas the case property produced before the Court showed that it had nails. Apart from this glaring contradiction, several other minor contradictions have been pointed out which remain unexplained,” the court said.

Appearing on behalf of the wildlife officials, its counsel contended the case of the prosecution had been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. He said that the officials had identified the case property correctly.

However, the court observed that there were contradictions noticed in the testimony of the members of the same raiding team which remain unexplained. It also said that the absence of public witnesses had given a “fatal blow” to the prosecution’s case.

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