By Ram Parmar
The Palghar Court on Sunday granted bail to two accused who were arrested for killing three flamingos near Kelwe Beach on Friday evening, with the intention of selling their meat for Rs 500 a kg.
The court observed that since the sections of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, under which the two were booked, carries a minimum punishment of three years if convicted, the accused can be granted bail.
The Forest Department, Palghar, are hunting for four more accused in the case, and said they are likely to be arrested by Monday.
On Sunday, the Palghar Court granted bail to Mahendra Gharat, 49, the owner of the licenced .12 bore rifle with which the birds were shot dead, and autorickshaw driver Vidyadhar Kini, 30, both residents of Tembhikodave Village in Saphale. Kini would regularly ferry the accused during their poaching trips, and would help them hide the rifle.
Range Forest Officer of Saphale Dinesh Desale told Mirror, "We argued the case for nearly two hours and tried our best to get Forest Custody Remand (FCR) of the accused. But the Palghar Court granted them bail against Rs 15,000 each."
Gharat and Kini were booked under Sections 2 (hunting), 9 (intent to hunt), 39 (stealing government property) and 51 (penalty for the above crimes levied by the Forest Department, local police) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
However, the court observed that since the sections fall under Schedule IV of the Act, wherein an accused could be granted bail as the punishment is of minimum three years jail if convicted, Gharat and Kini could be released on bail. (The Act has a number of schedules under which various wildlife species are classified, and flamingos fall under Schedule IV).
"We are in search of four other accused, Amol Bhalchandra Patil and Bansi Manglya Patil (residents of Tembhikodave Village), one Bhagwan (resident of Palghar) and an unidentified accused residing in Vilangi Village in Palghar Taluka," Desale further said. "We will arrest them by Monday, and will plead for their custody when they are produced before the Palghar Court."
Gharat and Kini, along with two others, had shot down three flamingos on Friday evening at Danda Creek, around 100 mts from the beach, with the intention of selling their meat. They, however, had to flee without the birds, as local residents gathered at the spot on hearing gunshots, and stood guard till police arrived.
Police said that Gharat and Kini are part of a gang of poachers who operate in the vicinity of Kelwa Beach, a weekend getaway that attracts colonies of flamingos every year. Flamingo meat is in huge demand among weekend revellers, who pay as much as Rs 500 per kg for it.