Four members of People for Animals, the animal welfare organisation run by Maneka Gandhi on Saturday found themselves booked and sent to police custody, accused of dacoity. This, after they nabbed a pick-up illegally carting cattle to a slaughterhouse.
While the truck driver booked for violation of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act of 1976 has been let off on bail, his two accomplices were sent to judicial custody The animal rights activists at Kurkundi village chased and halted a pickup truck carting cattle to a slaughterhouse on Pune-Nashik Highway on Friday night.
The Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act does not allow cattle aged below 16 years to be slaughtered and the young brood on the pick-up evidenced a violation of law. So was the manner in which the six cattle were cramped into the small pick-up truck.
The activist reported the incident to the police control room, but they were asked to haul the nabbed vehicle to the nearest police station at Rajguru Nagar, Khed about 60 km from Pune. Here, a drama ensued with the truck driver and his accomplices accusing the activists of physical assault, robbing them of Rs 4,000 and a mobile phone. The police accepted both the complaints. The three accused of cruelty to animals were booked under Sections 5, 6, 9 and 11 of the said Act (which prohibits the slaughter of cows, taking uncertified cattle for slaughter and calls for fining the offenders). These offences are bailable. On the other hand, the four activists were booked under Section 395 (dacoity) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which is non-bailable. The activists' argument that if their intention was dacoity, they would not be approaching the police in the first place, fell on deaf ears. Section 13 of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act states that a person acting with a clear intent of preventing cruelty to animal cannot be prosecuted," urged Pandit Modak, vice president of Akhil Bharatiya Krishi Goseva Sangh and honorary officer of the Animal Welfare Board, who was at the court to lend his support to the arrested four.
"Instead of being applauded for our efforts we are being jailed, because of the theatrics of the guilty and the police was witness to their blatant act," lamented Chandrakant Balasaheb Salunke, a member of People for Animals. "We acted based on the situation before us and the complaints lodged.
The court will decide who is guilty or not," said Manoj Lohia, District Superintendent of Police. "There were more than these four when they came to us, but the others escaped. When there are more than five people involved in a crime as told to us, it amounts to dacoity," he insisted. The activists were found to have the robbed items on them, he said.
That the ‘dacoits' had come to the police station to lodge a complaint made no difference to him. "Activists should remain within their limits when doing their work," he summed up his position. Ambika Shukla, who heads the People for Animals (State), said, " It is the responsibility of the police to look after whether the law against cruelty to animal is executed properly .
In this case police have tried to finish the activists by imposing serious sections, we will raised the issue before the court." All the accused were produced at the Khed Magistrate Court this afternoon.
The truck driver, Shabeer Nannu
Patel was granted bail, while the butcher, Babulal Babban Inamdar and his
helper Sameer Babban Inamdar were granted judicial custody, which keeps
them on call for further police interrogation. On the other hand, Salunke
and his friends, Rohit Jaganath Bhujbal, Vikram Kailas Gade and Yogesh
Kailas Kadam were sent to police custody until Tuesday, September 18.