In the third case of its kind in the state in four months,a Bhavnagar court on Thursday sentenced 16 poachers of Asiatic lions to five years imprisonment.
In October last year,a judicial magistrate in Junagadh had convicted 20 people accused in two cases of poaching lions in Babaria village of Junagadh. In September 2008,three persons were convicted for electrocuting five lions in Dhari village of Bhavnagar.
The chief judicial magistrate of Bhavnagar pronounced the verdict in connection with a case of 2007. The lions were killed in the Bhandariya village. Fifteen of the convicted are from Madhya Pradesh and one belongs to Karnataka.
The CID (Crime) was roped in to help the Forest department track the accused in a total of 10 cases of poaching of Asiatic lions in 2007. Two cases were registered in Junagadh and one in Bhavnagar. It is a hat-trick for me, said Inspector General,Keshav Kumar,who had supervised the cases during his tenure with the CID (Crime).
According to CID sources,the 16 convicts were accused of killing two lions,whose fumed bodies were found from a private farm in Bhandariya on April 4,2007. The first set of the arrest in this case was made on April 11,2007,while some of the poachers were trying to flee. One Prabhakar,who is a resident of Karwa district in Karnataka,was arrested by the CID on January 1 last year from Bangalore.
A joint team of the CID and the Forest department officials carried out the detailed site investigations,questioning,postmortem report analysis and forensic tests that lead to the conviction. All the 16 were been booked under Sections 9,11 and 39 of The Wildlife (Protection) Act and Sections 429 and 120 (b) of the Indian Penal Code.
Gujarat State Principal Chief Forest Conservator,Pradeep Khanna,said,The convictions in lion poaching cases will send a stern message to poachers who are eying the Asiatic lion in Gujarat.