Nagpur: The Earth Brigade Foundation (EBF), petitioner in the criminal PIL filed in the shooting of Pandharkawda tigress T1 aka Avni, has requested appointment of a special investigating team (SIT) to re-investigate all evidence and re-examine all reports. The EBF has alleged that shooter Shafat Ali Khan Asghar Ali Khan had forged his arms licence, and there was tampering with evidence at the crime scene.
In a detailed affidavit filed by Dr PV Subramaniam in the high court through lawyers Shreerang Bhandarkar and Sejal Lakhani, the NGO has sought directions against respondents Shafat Ali Khan Asghar Ali Khan to submit the guns used to kill T1 tigress for ballistic investigation.
The petitioner has appealed to the respondent state government to initiate criminal proceedings against the shooters for ‘illegal’ hunting of T1 by fabricating and forging a bogus and sham arms licence, tampering with evidence at the crime scene, and dereliction of duty by forest staff under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
The affidavit alleged that the licences submitted by the shooters do not have a unique identification number (UIN). As per the Arms Rules 2016, every arms licence has to have a UIN. If the Khans claim that their licences were apparently renewed on March 10, 2017, why did not the renewing authority generate a UIN? The UIN is nowhere present in copies of both licences, it said.
The petitioner alleged that renewal endorsement is typed, and only the renewal date is handwritten, and, shockingly, the endorsement signatures of the commissioner of police, while seemingly similar, are different and distinct.
In both licences, the renewal endorsement by the police commissioner, Hyderabad, is fully typed, only the day of the renewal date is handwritten. This raises strong suspicion of the possibility that the authorities could have acted in collusion with the Khans. Asghar used the gun belonging to his father Shafat Ali Khan.
The petitioner had engaged accredited agency Helik Advisory, a premier organization in forensic and allied sciences, to compare the signatures of the commissioner of police on the licences of Khans. The forensic agency has confirmed the forgery.
The said agency stated that the signatures on the licenxes are of different authorship. Further, while Shafat Ali Khan readily produced a copy of his licence during investigations, his son Asghar refused to produce the same before NTCA. The arms licence of Asghar seems to be forged, it said.
The NGO further said that respondent Khans were not required to deposit their arms during the elections in Telangana. Shafat Ali Khan and Asghar Khan were members of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI), and both were exempted from depositing their guns. The act of depositing the guns was therefore done with the malafide intent of preventing official access to the guns, which were a vital part of the investigations.
Further, the claims of Khans in the court that they were never asked to submit their weapons are completely false. As per RTI information, PN Wagh, the then divisional manager of FDCM, had met the Khans at Parwa forest rest house the morning after Avni was shot, on November 3, 2018, and he asked them to submit weapons. They said the arms were at Umri rest house. When Wagh went to Umri, the duo had already left. To several written communications by FDCM, the Khans said as the tigress was already dead, there was no need to give the weapons.
The petitioner NGO also claimed that forensic report belies the claim of an attempt to tranquillize T1. The forensic report of T1 on December 6, 2018, revealed that the tranquillizing drug was found only at the site of the darting. However, no traces of the tranquillizing drugs were found in the body parts of the tigress. The lack of tranquillizing drugs in the blood or organs of T1 indicates that the dart was injected after death, with malafide intent to simulate a darting attempt.