Gaurav Gupta of the animal welfare NGO People For Animals (PFA), who called police to the spot where three men transporting buffaloes were attacked on Saturday night in New Delhi, has been linked to vigilantism earlier too. In 2013, Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered registration of an FIR against him and three others after the PFA “rescued” 68 camels in Jhajjar district.
Gupta and a Sub-Inspector of Haryana Police, Sandeep Kumar, were subsequently arrested in the case. The High Court had passed the order after the then Chief Judicial Magistrate of Jhajjar Kumud Gugnani sent a detailed report to the court. Kumar was arrested for “handing over” the camels to Gupta and others “without any authority”.
Gupta had then sent the animals to Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre in Delhi. Rajesh Kumar, in-charge of Jhajjar’s City Police Post, said, “Total four accused including Gupta and Sandeep were arrested and were later bailed out by the court. Currently, the case is being heard by a local court.”
The case is being heard in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Suruchi Atreja Singh. The last hearing was on March 21 this year, and the next hearing in on April 28.
On the incident that had taken place in December 2012, the judicial magistrate wrote in 2013: “…A group of eight farmers were travelling on foot to their native place of Baghpat, in the state of UP, with a caravan of 68 animals which they had reportedly lawfully purchased from an Animal Fair against valid bills/receipts. Prima facie they had committed no offence at all, including the one under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.”
Acting on a complaint by Gupta, however, the Jhajjar police arrested the farmers and seized their camels. “The system”, the judge wrote, “was taken for a ride and eight poor ruralities were booked and detained in custody for such offences as they had never committed…” Subsequently, “the animals were… very quietly and in fact mischievously delivered to the NGO and were put in Delhi… The court was kept in dark about the clandestine move.”
After the magistrate ordered the release of the animals, the Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre demanded Rs 24 lakh from the farmers as the sum spent “for feed and safe keeping of the animals for the last one week”. The court expressed outrage at the demand: “What an intricate and suffocating web weaved by the police and the concerned NGO to mis-appropriate 68 camels belonging to very poor ruralities.”
On May 30, 2013, the High Court ordered, “Under the circumstances, we direct the Superintendent of Police, Jhajjar to register an FIR, under the relevant provisions of law against Gaurav Gupta, Sukhram Khatana, Dr Banwari Lal Parasar, authorities of the hospital, where the animals were kept at Delhi and Sub Inspector Sandeep Kumar, who handed over case property to unknown persons without any authority.
“There is no iota of evidence to show that the disputed animals were being shifted to Baghpat for slaughtering for meat,” the HC observed. The court also ordered the hospital to release the camels to their owners.