King Cobra and the PIL

Indian Express February 11, 2010

Today, I was pleasantly surprised to read a news article about a Public Interest Litigation involving a snake….a king cobra…… to be precise.

The report said a 16 feet king cobra was rescued from a monk and is under the care of Solapur Municipal Corporation. More about this later…..

The news transported me back in time …..more than four decades back ….to 1968.
I was then a probationer in the National Academy of Direct Taxes in Nagpur where new entrants to the Indian Revenue Service (Income Tax) are trained to become what they finally become.

Being an animal lover from early childhood, I purchased a baby python from a local snake charmer. Till that day, I never knew humans are so scared of snakes. The result was that on the third day, I was directed to dispose off the baby python or get out.

I went to the local Maharajbagh Zoo and managed to meet the acting Director. I offered to donate my baby python. But he was averse to taking anything as donation. I requested him to keep my baby python for a few months. I would pay for the upkeep and take back the baby python later. But this was completely ruled out.

I then went to his boss…a senior professor. He called the acting Director and asked him whether the zoo had too many pythons.  No…that was not the case. The zoo had two pythons earlier and both had died. So there was a clear vacancy. The senior professor almost forced him to accept the baby python.

I wanted a receipt for my baby python. The acting Director refused. I suppose he had had too much of me.
Again, I went to his boss…the senior professor. He called the acting Director and asked him why he could not issue a receipt and how he would account for the baby python in the zoo’s inventory. The acting Director said they would show it as found while digging the ground. The senior professor convinced the acting Director that pythons are not recovered while digging and finally I got my receipt.

I later found that the acting Director was from the University’s Botany department. That explains his apathy to animals.

Today’s news is mentally stunning. The Public Interest Litigation application wants the High Court to order the king cobra to be released in the wild.

A division bench of Justices J N Patel and B R Gawai of the Bombay High Court has called for report from the Central Zoo Authority and the Solapur Municipal Corporation.

I am sure there are enough wild life experts and government departments who could have taken a well reasoned decision in the king cobra’s interest and done for him (or may be her) what was best and given better facilities in some good zoo.

I really find it difficult to understand how this issue could become a matter of public interest litigation when our courts are almost choked with cases.

I would have probably understood the situation better if the issue involved a community or group of king cobras. But this case involves a single king cobra!

Of course, some things are better left unexplained, because there is no rhyme or reason or logic.

Incidentally, the king cobra is one of the five most venomous snakes of India. It is found in dense forests and the chances of sighting it in the wild are rather rare.

The Government has already established a special reserve for king cobras in Agumbe (about 90 kms. from Shimoga) in Karnataka.
The king cobra, which is the subject matter of the Public Interest Litigation, can be relocated to the Rani Bagh Zoo, in Mumbai; Sanjay Gandhi National Park or can be easily sent to Agumbe – even without the High Court’s intervention.

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4 thoughts on “King Cobra and the PIL

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  3. Binoy Gupta on

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    Binoy Gupta

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