New Delhi: A Maharashtra minister who entered
a tiger cage may face a six-month jail term if found guilty of
violating Central Zoo Authority norms, Union Environment
Minister Jairam Ramesh said today.
"We have asked the CZA to probe into the matter and
submit the report within two days. If the Minister, Balasaheb
Thorat, is found guilty, law will takes its course," he told
Thorat, an agricultural minister in Maharashtra, has been
under attack after he was filmed last week stroking a tiger
cub in Maharajbagh zoo in Nagpur run by the Agriculture
College as his armed security guards and the city Congress
president Jaiprakash Gupta looked on.
According to Ramesh, the violation of the CZA rules
causing trauma to the animal will attract a punishment of six
months jail-term or fine of Rs 2,000 or both.
Describing Thorat`s act as not only "irresponsible but
also violation of the Wildlife Act," conservationists have
been demanding his punishment.
As per CZA rules, only trained conservationists are
allowed to handle endangered species. Close contact between
endangered species and humans is restricted by zoos worldwide
to reduce the animals’ trauma and the risk of infection.
Thorat had defended himself saying, "I wanted to see how
the staff are taking care of the cubs, and I saw they are
doing a good job."
CZA Member Secretary B R Sharma admitted his department
got an instruction in this regard from the Union minister. "We
will soon submit the report," he said.