By Vijay Pinjarkar
NAGPUR: It was another setback to Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) when a Tis Hazari court in Delhi granted bail to tiger skin and bones trader Sarju Bagdi alias Suraj Bhan, but at the same time rejection of bail to eight accused in a similar case in Bhandara came as a big relief to the forest department.
Sarju, who is charged with trafficking five tiger skins from Amdi Fata near here, is presently lodged in Central Jail. He is the third trader to be granted bail by a Delhi court.
Earlier, the court had granted bail to international tiger skin trader Suraj Pal alias Chacha and carrier Naresh Lala. All the three are closely linked and were nabbed from Delhi on September 6, 2013. While a cash of Rs2.75 lakh and tiger bones were seized from the car of Lala and Sarju, Rs50 lakh were seized from Chacha.
A WCCB official confirmed that Sarju had been granted bail. ""We will challenge the decision in case of both Chacha and Sarju in the appellate court. Our application is ready,"" he said. A similar reply was received from WCCB officials earlier too. Chacha was granted bail on May 22. It is almost more than two months his order has not been challenged.
Currently, all the three main accused are on bail, but only Lala is a free bird as he has been granted bail by both Nagpur and Delhi courts. The forest department has challenged his bail order in the Nagpur bench of Bombay high court.
Chacha and Sarju will still have to remain in jail. The Nagpur district and sessions judge though recently granted bail to Chacha, an Amravati court has rejected it.
Earlier, Sarju's bail application was rejected by a local court here in April. He has again moved an application. The matter came up for hearing before JMFC GD Agrawal on Friday but it was adjourned till August 12.
Meanwhile, the eight accused in Bhandara case who were denied bail included kingpin Vikas Maraskolhe, Tanne Khan, Manoj Mahajan (Nagpur), retired revenue department surveyor Kavish Bomanwar, Jagdish Bhabre, Deochand Awtare and Hanumanthu.
The accused had deployed a battery of five lawyers while forest department was represented by its special counsel Kartik Shukul. Defence counsel SM Quazi argued that various sections mentioned in the preliminary offence report (POR) were not maintainable. He argued that sufficient time had elapsed since arrest and therefore bail is necessary.
The accused were nabbed on July 27 while trying to strike a deal for tiger skin with some decoys of Bangalore-based NGO at a lodge in Bhandara. Yet, the accused denied any involvement whatsoever.
However, Shukul argued that though investigations were at a nascent stage, tiger skin and nails have already been recovered. All evidence is corroborated by the confessional statements and further by CDR. The CDR of Maraskolhe has bared links with a Tibetan trader.
The court considered seriousness of the crime and as granting of bail might adversely affect the probe, rejected bail of eight accused.
The case so far
* Sarju is charged with trafficking five tiger skins from Amdi Fata (Ramtek). He is lodged in Central Jail and is the third tiger skin trader to be granted bail by the Delhi court
* Earlier, Naresh Lala and international tiger skin trader Suraj Pal were granted bail by a Delhi court
* Pal and Sarju will remain in jail as their bail applications have been rejected in Nagpur and Amravati respectively
* Eight accused in Bhandara case were linked to each other and supplied material to kingpin Vikas Maraskolhe
* Maraskolhe's call details have dreaded poacher Keru's number and a Tibetan trader's number