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NRI caught at Delhi airport while trying to smuggle ‘wildlife trophy’

New Delhi, March 29 2024-

A Non-Resident Indian (NRI), on his way to the United States, was caught at Delhi Airport for allegedly smuggling a ‘wildlife trophy’, a police official said on Friday.

He said that an FIR was registered by Delhi Police on March 26 following the complaint filed by the Department of Forest and Wildlife which detected a serious violation on March 24 at IGI airport.

The wildlife trophy is known as an animal (or its head, skin or any other body part) that the hunter keeps as a souvenir.

The incident involved Paljit Singh Paul Lalvani, a resident of New York, USA, who was apprehended on March 24 while attempting to transport a suspicious wildlife trophy presumed to be from an antelope/carved species, out of the country.

Despite being initially booked under the Customs Act, 1962, Lalvani’s case was later directed to the Wildlife Department by the Duty Magistrate, Patiala House Court, with instructions to register an FIR.

“I am writing to bring to your attention a serious violation of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, which occurred at Indira Gandhi International Airport on March 24. I urge you to kindly register an FIR against Paljit Singh Paul Lalvani, who was supposed to travel to the US by Air India,” reads the complaint filed by Rajesh Tandon, the Deputy Range Officer, West Forest Division, Delhi.

Tandon added that on the scanning of the baggage of Lalvani, a doubtful image was noticed in one of the suitcases.

“The recovered article is presumed to be Antelope/Cerved Species covered under Schedule I and II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The incident took place on March 24 when Lalvani was apprehended by DIAL (Airport Security) while attempting to transport the aforementioned wildlife trophy out of the country,” read the FIR, accessed by IANS.

Lalvani was handed over to the Customs Officials and they booked him under relevant sections of the Customs Act, 1962.

Lalvani was produced before the Duty Magistrate, Patiala House Court and was granted bail under Customs Acts. However, the Duty Magistrate further directed the Custom Officials to hand over the seized article to the Wildlife Department with further direction to intimate the Station House Officer(SHO) IGI police station for registration of FIR.

“This act is a clear violation of several sections of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, including but not limited to Sections 39, 40, 48A, 49, 49B, and 51. As per Section 39 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, possession and transport of trophies of scheduled species without proper authorisation are strictly prohibited,” read the FIR.

The FIR further stated that under Section 40, any attempt to export such trophies without requisite permits is punishable under the law.

“Given the gravity of the offence and the need to uphold wildlife conservation laws, I implore you to take immediate action by registering an FIR against Lalvani. It is crucial to send a strong message that such unlawful activities will not be tolerated, and perpetrators will be held accountable under the law,” Tandon noted in the complaint.

A senior Delhi Police official said that a case under Sections 39, 49 and 51 of the Wild Animal Protection Act, 1972 has been registered and further probe has been initiated. (Agency)

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