The Madras High Court on Wednesday ordered the formation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) consisting of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), State Police and Forest Department officials to investigate the cases linked to elephant poaching and other reported forest crimes in the Western Ghats region.
The court further ordered the SIT to open an investigation by May 15 and submit a situation report to the court by June 10. The SIT will investigate 19 cases, most of which occurred between 2013 and 2018.
Justice V Bharatidasan and Judge N Sathish Kumar further gave the SIT the freedom to hire other police and forest officers, if necessary, after obtaining the necessary authorization from the authorities and to carry out a thorough investigation of the matter. The SIT was given powers to investigate under the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.
The State services were also responsible for providing the necessary support to the investigation carried out by the SIT. The court also ordered the SIT to register even complaints against the defendants and to pursue legal proceedings before the jurisdictional magistrates.
The court further clarified that the decision to include a CBI official from Kerala will be taken after taking note of the investigation by the SIT. The Kerala government had asked for time to appoint members to the SIT after the government withdrew its broad consent for the CBI to investigate cases within the state.
AAG J Ravindran further argued in court that a committee had been set up to identify officials who had been serving in the area for more than three years and that those officials should be transferred.
The court decisions were made after taking into account the delay in the investigation by the CBI into the 19 cases of elephant poaching reported in the Megamalai region.
The SIT will be headed by CBI Police Superintendent Nirmala Devi. It also includes CBI Deputy Superintendent of Police Santhosh Kumar, former Chief Wildlife Warden Shekhar Kumar Niraj, Deputy Conservator of Forests R Rajmohan and IPS Officer Mohan Nawaj.
Case title: S. Manoj Immanuel c. Union of India and Ors.
Case no: WP(MD) 19771 of 2018