Poacher Sansar Chand gets 6 years in jail

Fifteen years after he was arrested with a leopard skin, poacher Sansar Chand, infamous as Veerappan of North India, was sentenced to six years in jail and fined Rs 50,000 by a Delhi court on Wednesday.

Handing down the maximum punishment under the Wildlife Protection Act to Chand, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Digvinay Singh remarked that "despite various steps taken by governments across the globe, offences relating to wildlife are refusing to come down".

Referring to Chand, the magistrate said that "such repeated offenders need to be dealt with iron hands, particularly when there have been three previous convictions and involvement in other similar offences".

"The punishment given to the convict should not only be commensurate with offence committed by him, but should also act as a deterrent not only to this convict but to others involved in similar offences of wildlife,"the judge added.

Chand was first convicted for possession of uncured skins by a Delhi court in 1974,when he was only 16 years old.

Between then and now, he was tried, on the basis of confessional statements of various accused traders,in at least 4 cases, but was let off each time since no animal products could be recovered from him.

This case dates back to July 17, 1995, when Delhi Police arrested Chand with a leopard skin, hidden in a canvas bag. After Wildlife Inspector and complainant in the case, V Bharati Dasan, and Delhi's Chief Wildlife Warden D M Shukla identified the leopard skin presented before the court as the one seized from the poacher,Chand's counsel contended that it cannot be used as evidence as it was not examined by a competent laboratory.

But the court rejected the contention, saying,"Wildlife officials not only have adequate qualifications to identify such animal skins, but also by virtue of their training and experience, are competent of identifying such articles".

Reacting to the judgement, Vice Chairman, Wildlife Trust of India, Ashok Kumar,said,"I welcome the sentence, but that it's taken 15 years for him to be punished is a worry. Now that special courts are being set up to dispose cases related to wildlife crimes, I hope justice will be quicker."

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