CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Tuesday has directed Tamil Nadu forest department not to kill the 'MDT 23' tiger, which has triggered panic allegedly killing four people and about 20 livestock in several villages of Gudalur forest division.
Despite enormous public outrage and pressure from political circles, the forest department has so far maintained restraint and only tried to capture the animal, although Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) and Chief Wildlife Warden Shekhar Kumar Niraj issued a hunting order under section 11(1)(a) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
However, a writ petition was filed by G Arun Prasanna from People for Cattle of India (PFCI) before the first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice P D Audikesavalu challenging the hunting order. The court permitted urgent mention and the hearing was held on Tuesday.
State government pleader P Muthukumar filed an affidavit on behalf of PCCF and the Chief Wildlife Warden detailing the ground operation and department's endeavour to mitigate the man-animal conflict using non-lethal measures like tranquilizing and capturing the tiger.
Recording the submissions, the bench ordered, "The tiger, identified as MDT 23 which is perceived to be dangerous to humans, is to be captured alive and no steps are to be taken to put the animal to sleep."
Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee also directed the PCCF to use his best discretion to minimise the number of people entering the natural habitat to carry out the operation. "The moment a large posse of humans enters any forest, the natural habitat gets destroyed. All that can be said at the moment is that the other animals in the area should not be disturbed to the extent avoidable for the purpose of tracking down this animal, though some discreet measures may be used for such purpose with the object of ultimately treating the animal and respecting its right to remain wild and free to roam in the forest."
The court said the forest department was free to deal with the the MDT 23 tiger for its treatment and for ascertaining its conduct and behaviour. The Chief Justice also observed that the tiger may not be a man-eater and only few tigers, approximately 3,000, are left in the wild, so all steps need to be taken for their safety.
The bench has sought for a status report to be filed when the matter appears immediately after the reopening of the court following the ensuing vacation.