Noted Mumbai-based bird rescuer moves high court to quash hunting charges against him

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Pradeep D’souza, a well-known bird rescuer of Mumbai, recently approached the Bombay High Court seeking to quash an FIR lodged against him by the Maharashtra Forest Department for allegedly hunting and purchasing wild animals. The FIR was filed for alleged violation of the Wildlife (Protection) Act (WPA) in 2021.
D’Souza, 47, claimed to be the most sought-after bird rescuer in Mumbai who rescues and rehabilitates trapped, sick and injured birds. He said that even forest department officials seek his help for rehabilitation of birds as the government had inadequate infrastructure for the same.
D’Souza, in a petition filed through advocate Amrita Nair, submitted that on March 14, 2020, he had written a letter to the Office of Conservator of Forest, Thane Forest Division and had given a list of the birds rescued by him according to the guidelines provided in the WPA. He added that despite repeated efforts to seek help from the forest officials to rehabilitate the injured birds, his attempts were unanswered, leaving him with no option rather than to keep the birds till they were fit to be released.
In October 2021, D’Souza’s house was raided by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and the Forest Department and 110 kites, 43 parrots, eight bats, seven barn owls, two night herons and a sea gull were seized. D’Souza said the birds, at the time of seizure, were unfit to survive in the wild.
The petitioner was booked under Sections 9 (prohibition of hunting), 39 (wild animals to be government property), 48A (restrictions on transportation of wild life) and 51 (penalties) of the WPA, which are punishable with jail terms up to three years.
D’Souza, who was arrested on October 5, 2021, availed bail from a magistrate court four days later. As per his plea, the magistrate court noted that D’Souza was providing care and shelter to the injured birds and the forest department had not responded to his letter consisting of a list of the birds he had with him.
The petition said that D’Souza was merely performing his fundamental duties under Article 51A- (g) of the Constitution to protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures. The petitioner said he had not hunted or procured wild birds with an intention to sell or make monetary gains, therefore the FIR against him be quashed and set aside.
A division bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and N R Borkar could not hear the plea on Monday due to paucity of time, it adjourned the same to August 2.
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