NEW DELHI: In a remarkable achievement, officials of the forest department of Karnataka have been able to obtain a quick judgment in the case relating to poaching in Nagarhole National Park in which at least 50 tribal hunters from Madhya Pradesh were found with traps and other implements camping inside the park.Their arrest followed a sensational video recorded by a tourist showing an adult tiger limping along with steel jaw trap attached to the leg. This video shown on television news created a furore forcing the director, Project Tiger, to rush to the spot. The tiger was late tranquilised for treatment, but its foot could not be saved. The tiger, which limps, is now housed in Mysore Zoo.

In a judgment delivered on Novermber 8, 2002, the Civil Judge at Periyapatna convicted three men under Section 51 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and Section 24 (j) of the Karnataka Forest Act. They were convicted to undergo rigorous imprisonment for two years and pay a fine of Rs 2,000, and simple imprisonment for six months and pay a fine of Rs 5,000, under the two acts respectively. The sentences will run consecutively.

Three women were also convicted under the same Acts. They will undergo simple imprisonment for one year and also simple imprisonment for one month. These sentences will run consecutively as well.

The conviction was made possible due to the untiring efforts of the investigating officer, Mr KD Belliappa, Range Forest Officer of Anechaukar, and Assistant Public Presecutor, Mr TM Narendra. Wildlife Trust of India was approached by the authorities to provide legal assistance in the matter and therefore appointed Mr KG Uthappa, a local lawyer, to oppose bail. Mr Sudhir Mishra, legal advisor to WTI, briefed Mr Uthappa, to assist this successful cnviction.

Convictions in wildlife court cases are few and far between because of a number of shortcomings in investigation, filing of chargesheets, and pursuing the case in courts. Wildlife Trust of India is holding a number of legal seminars and workshops for higher judiciary, district judiciary and enforcement agencies to create awareness of wildlife laws and improve procedures.