RAJNANDGAON: Thanks to the turtle-like pace of the criminal justice system, four turtles are living in watery imprisonment in Chhattisgarh's Rajnandgaon district for the last four years.
These amphibians, who form evidence in a case under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, are in the custody of the forest department since 2015.
Six persons were arrested and turtles were recovered from their possession in Basantpur police station limits in the district in 2015.
Rajesh Sahu, Station House Officer, Basantpur, said under the Wildlife Protection Act, capture, possession, consumption or trade of turtles is illegal.
The accused were going to use the turtles for black magic rituals as they are believed to bring good luck and wealth, he said.
After a charge sheet was filed, the court directed that the forest department should take care of the turtles till the trial is over as they form evidence, Sahu said.
The accused were later released on bail.
"The turtles have been kept in an aquarium in a forest depot at Rajnandgaon," said Divisional Forest Officer Pankaj Rajput. "As soon as we get permission from the court, they will be released into their natural habitat," he added.
Mansoor Khan, a Bilaspur-based wildlife activist, questioned the decision to restrict their freedom so that the law could take its own course.
"The forest department should seek the court's permission to release the turtles in their natural habitat. It does not make sense to keep them in captivity when the accused are roaming free," he said.