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Indian High Court speaks of value of tiger to global health

The High Court in India has ruled that the crime of major international tiger skin and body parts trader Suraj Pal, alias Chacha, trading tiger skins in a global market must be gauged by its enormity, its extent and its repercussions on society and the larger public interest. The offence has transnational ramifications it claims.

Justice Shukre ruled that the tiger is of paramount importance for maintaining the pristine health of an ecosystem and is essential for the survival of mankind.

“Removal of top carnivores from an ecosystem will lead to the relative abundance of herbivores and other species creating a cascading effect on environment,” he said.

The high court ruling will have a national impact on poaching cases, said legal expert Yashkumar Soni from MP, who has been fighting many wildlife crime cases. “This must be perhaps the first case wherein bail application of an accused in tiger poaching has been cancelled. Otherwise, poachers easily get away by securing bail,” Soni said.

Highlighting the importance of tigers, Justice Shukre ruled that a healthy ecosystem determines sustainability of life on earth itself and tigers are an important benchmark of a healthy forest. Habitats where tigers abound are considered to be extremely high value ecosystem.

“Tigers also boost wildlife tourism and are part of our rich cultural heritage …These factors have not at all been considered by the ASJ,” Justice Shukre ruled.

The ASJ had ruled that as Chacha had four sons and had roots in the society and will not run away from justice, but the high court said that wildlife trade is a lucrative business. “When stakes involved in crime are high, the lure for money and the thrill of the act become too powerful,” the court said.

Shukul had argued that the accused is in a dominant position and is already threatening witnesses and that granting bail to the accused would adversely affect the trial and investigation.

Expounding tiger poaching as a serious crime, the high court cancelled Chacha’s bail. However, the court granted liberty to Chacha to move for a fresh application for grant of regular bail. He has been given two weeks to move the apex court.

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