Wednesday, 1 June 2011


The District Judge of Champawat District of Uttarakhand,  India, Mr.R.S.Chauhan, while in his judicial capacity allowing a bail appeal of a notorious poacher, also misused his office to
abuse, insult and demoralise the Range Officer who had arrested the poacher and detained him for two hours in his court till he was forced to apologize to be set free.
The whole event started with the Tehelka sting operation which uncovered a racket of poachers in the State of Uttarakhand. There were four different incidences in the Tehelka exposure, of which one poacher each from three of the incidences were arrested by the concerned authorities. The arrest of Girish Singh s/o Moti Singh, r/o Shyamlatal, Champawat (the person shown exposing two leopard skins to the sting operation team in a forest area) at Champawat completed the series. He was produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, who denied his bail application and gave 15 days remand in judicial custody. On the expiry of the remand, the forest department further fought the bail application and succeeded in getting the remand extended for a further 15 days. The accused appealed before the District and Session Judge at Champawat. During the hearing of the bail application on 31st May 2011, the District Judge allowed the bail on a bond of INR 20000. The judge was of the opinion that the video of the sting operation was not sufficient proof to keep the accused on remand. The forest department had submitted the original downloads and printouts of the video as well as the statement of the accused identifying himself as the man shown in the tape exposing the leopard skins. Moreover, in wildlife cases, the burden of proof is on the accused and not on the prosecution. The judge opined that any accused would admit his crime if given two beatings by the authorities. If the judge was not convinced, he had the full power to release the person on bail. But it did not end there! He started abusing the Range Officer who had arrested the poacher and stood before the judge to fight the case. He threathened the Range Officer saying that he would be arrested and a case lodge for arresting an 'innocent person', i.e, the poacher. Sec 60 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 clearly mentions that no action would stand against any officer or staff who in his official capacity has acted in good faith under the act and no judicial proceedings or injunction order would stand against him. Inspite of this provision, the judge threatened the officer and told that he would issue an injunction order and that there was malafide intention in arresting the poacher. He detained him asking his senior officers to be immediately be present before him to get the range officer released. Since his senior officers were far away from the headquarters during this hearing and would take atleast 3 hrs to reach the court, the Range Officer had to apologize as a last resort and told that he was unaware of how to deal with 'cyber crimes'and internet based evidences. Then the Judge released him.
Just think about how the Range Officer got demoralised. In such circumstances, he would never dare to even book a wildlife case not to talk of being motivated to apprehend the offender.
The trial of the case, however would continue in the lower court as per procedure. But now you can understand, how things would be unfavourable for the prosecution.
If judges start misusing their offices and start supporting the accused, then the poachers would be cheered up to continue their profession. It was ok if the judge had just granted him bail and said nothing more. But blatantly supporting the accused and insulting the prosecuting officer in front of several others is a matter for which action should be taken. The Hon.High Court should be informed of this misconduct by the judge and the Administrative Judge for Champawat district should be directed to conduct an inquiry into the matter and take necessary action against the District Judge.
I also came to know that even the arrest of the poacher was delayed as the District Judge was already aware of the Tehelka videos and had asked the authorities not to proceed with this evidence alone. The forest department could have easily attached some fake evidences too to strenghten the case, but the good-hearted authorities considered it unethical to do so and proceeded with this video evidence, which the accused also had admitted.
This is an appeal to all who is reading this article to publicise this incidence and use all your good offices to take action against the District Judge and to help prevent such non-judicial actions by judiciary in future, at least for the sake of wildlife, who cannot speak anything on their own. The forest officers are mostly the only advocates of such aggrieved life forms. It is not always possible to get witness or evidence in forest areas. The law also provides for the evidence recorded in front of the accused by an Asst. Conservator of Forest or above to be admitted in court. There is no requirement of independent witness in wildlife cases. The judiciary is also well aware of the fact. However, the poachers have a better network and there are several advocates who support the poachers. As you all know, govt. departments are always poor in fighting their cases in courts.
Kindly forward this incident to all judges and wildlife activists you know. Judiciary should always be respected always and for that it is necessary that there should not be any judge who brings judiciary to disgrace.
Thank you very much.


  1. The following points clarify the legal position in the instant case;
    1. A forest officer is not bound to prove the offence beyond doubt through arbitration under section 25 and 30 of Indian Evidence Act, as forest officer is not a police officer. (Aboobacker Vs. Forest Range Officer case of Keral a High Court).

    2. Any evidence recorded by forest officer is admissible in the court of law (as per Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and Indian Forest Act, 1927.)

    3. The burden of proof lies on the accused to prove does not lies on forest officer to prove guilty ( famous case of Sansar Chand in Delhi High Court and WPA,1972)’

    4. There is an absolute protection with forest officer as public servant while performing public duty in any action taken in good faith. (WPA and CrPC).

    5. Special Laws always overrides the general Laws (section 5 of CrPC ).

    6. For further reference and relevant case laws the book with title , “ Study and Practice of Wild Life Laws in India “ published by NATRAJ Publishers, Dehradun

  2. Excellent !
    And also thanks for the reference. We should sent a copy to the judge.