New Delhi: A trial court in the Eastern Indian state of West Bengal today sentenced notorious wildlife trader Ratiram Sharma to 5 years imprisonment and a fine of Rupees 10,000.
The judgment is first of its kind by a court in Eastern India, lawyers in the case said.
The accused was held guilty for violating section 51 of Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, which prohibits trade in endangered species.
Six prosecution witnesses in the case had deposed before the court of Jahangir Kobir, Addl. Chief Judicial Magistrate, Alipurduar.
On behalf of the forest department, the final arguments were led by Saurabh Sharma, the state appointed prosecutor and an advocate of the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI)
“The convict has been involved in heinous wildlife crimes which spread out to several states in India and is guilty of violating the law.” Saurabh Sharma said.
Ratiram Sharma was arrested on July 14, 2006 after forest officials recovered 4 leopard skins, 140 pieces of rhino skins, 125 pieces of tiger bones and a skull from his house.
Subsequent investigations revealed that he was involved in other wildlife crimes in the past and another two cases are pending against him.
The convict is also nicknamed as rhino-man for his repeated involvements in the illegal rhino parts trade (horns, skins etc.) in West Bengal and Assam.
On September 7, he was granted bail by the Kolkota High Court, but he continued to remain in custody for another case pending against him. In that case, his son in-law Rajender Joshi is also a co-accused.
Earlier, his five bail applications were repeatedly dismissed by the Addl. Chief Judicial Magistrate of Alipurduar.
Following his bail, the state moved a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court to set aside the High Court order. Consequently on November 13, the court issued a notice in this regard.
“This punishment has sent a strong message to those involved in wildlife crimes that they will not be spared for such acts.” Ashok Kumar, Vice Chairman of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) said.
Pix credit: West Bengal Forest Department