Justice delayed but not denied


New Delhi: In what promises to be a victory for the cause of controlling the trade of Shahtoosh, the Delhi High Court on Monday, September 3 dismissed the petition of the Cottage Industries Exposition (CIE), caught exporting Shahtoosh shawls to a London firm. A consignment of twelve Shahtoosh shawls was seized by the Indian Customs on 11.11.1996. According to the sender of the consignment, CIE, an Indian company, the shawls were meant for a company in London.

Despite the seizure having taken place more than a decade ago, the CIE got a stay order from the Delhi High Court in 1997 putting all legal proceedings on hold.

The Wildlife Trust of India stepped in through an intervention application in 2006 and after a prolonged battle, the orders from the Supreme Court case titled, ‘Ashok Kumar Vs. State of J&K’ and other references were made available to the High Court, negating the arguments of the CIE. WTI was asked to step in by Mr. K.N. Singh, Asst. Dy. Director, Wildlife Preservation, Northern Region since the case was not progressing. After WTI stepped in September 2006, the case was expedited. Mr. Sanjay Parikh, Advocate who appeared for WTI in important hearings was assisted by Mr. Saurabh Sharma, Advocate.

“This is the breakthrough that the Ministry of Environment has been looking for,” said Saurabh Sharma, advocate for WTI who was present when the order was read out.

The stay order on a trial under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 has been vacated. That will start the legal process of prosecution which should have begun in 1996.

The Metropolitan Police of London tracked down the company which was to receive these shawls, put them under surveillance and finally seized 138 Shahtoosh shawls in 1997.

In fact, the seizure was the main factor in the establishment of ‘Operation Charm,’ a specialised unit for control of wildlife crime in UK.

Despite an international ban on Shahtoosh and repeated seizures of Shahtoosh shawls in UK, US, Hong Kong, Nepal and Dubai, the trade still continues in the Kashmir valley. The Wildlife Trust of India is working in close collaboration with the British High Commission to provide alternate means of livelihood to the weavers of Shahtoosh in order to control the trade.

In another matter connected to this case, Mohan Lal Relia Vs State, the court dismissed their writ petition. This involved the seizure of 46 Shahtoosh shawls from the premises of Trans Asia Exposition, Haus Khas, in 2000. WTI had moved an intervention application in both these cases in September 2006.

Both the cases were heard and decided together. Prosecution will also start in this case.