Shri Agni Mitra, Indian Forest Service
Dr Harsh Vardhan
Shri Ritesh Singh
Smt Anuradha Singh
Shri Manmohan Singh Negi
Hello Mr Mitra,
Would you like to come for a cup of tea and an informal chat this Rabindra Jayanti, bringing any questions and also your colleague Forest Ranger MK Deb? The invitation is my first response to your summons to attend an interrogation by you on 24 May at Nizam Palace.
My letter is public because the issues are important, and because this is the Internet age and everyone can and should see what transpires. Hence the current Minister, a previous Minister, and current senior Forest officials are also tagged by email, and the whole document is public for the world to see, at Twitter too.
Regarding our family’s 5 items of old African ivory held since the late 1970s that you forcibly seized from my home on 2 May 2019, you have been threatening me with arrest and jail for weeks now, you called me on the phone a “confessed criminal” and declared how the “law will take its course” etc.
The fact actually is I am completely innocent!
You are apparently a stellar young officer who went to Narendrapur and Presidency, both of which I’ve visited, and indeed whose eminent alumni include Bibek Debroy, Mr Modi’s adviser, who started with me at Cambridge in 1976 under the same Professor Hahn, and who visited our then home in Behala about 1979/80 for luncheon once just about when these ivory items had come to us. Your colleague Forest Ranger Deb spoke highly of you and did not like me disparaging you while the forcible search and seizure was taking place at my home. Hence my invitation to tea and a chat today.
For myself, my experience has been that you have been acting tyrannically and unconstitutionally, misunderstanding and misusing the law you keep quoting against me. Definitely you have apparently 0 law degree, not even an LLB, but you and others in your position in the Forest Service have been given vast prosecutorial powers, and command of large Central Armed Police forces.
Abuse of power and breach of Constitutional rights of individual citizens is inevitable.
When a stellar Forest Officer misuses the law tyrannically against Subroto Roy, Economist, who had Narendra Modi in his Deendayal Upadhyay audience in Washington in October 1984, and who six years later sparked with Rajiv Gandhi the 1991 reform, I dread to think what India’s villagers and forest dwellers may have been facing in similar situations.
So we are in a War or Peace situation. Finding a modus vivendi by diplomacy is always better than bruising each other fighting. Hence my invitation to tea to you and Ranger Deb along with any questions both of you may have informally.
From my side, if you accept my invitation I will show you my specific legal case against you!
Namely, the warrantless search & seizure that you love so much to quote requires in its preface
**reasonable grounds for believing that any person has committed an offence against this Act**.
Now who are such offenders against this Act? Your own “Wildlife Crime Control Bureau” document of 2013 itself states
“wildlife offenders can be divided into
(a) poachers or hunters who kill or capture wild animals or collect wild plants
(b) persons buying hunted/captured animals or collected plants for own consumption or trade”
I myself had declared my mother’s ivory to you! Neither of us ever a “poacher/hunter/buyer”!
You had no “reasonable grounds” for ordering your forcible warrantless search and seizure at our home.
Neither my late mother nor I qualify as prima facie “wildlife offenders” by your own Government definition!
Since you have behaved lacking such “reasonable grounds” for warrantless search and seizure from our home, may I not pray to a Court that this is a case of wrongful seizure under Article 53?
“53. Punishment for wrongful seizure. – If any person, exercising powers under this Act, vexatiously and unnecessarily seizes the property of any other person on the pretence of seizing it for the reasons mentioned in sec. 50, he shall, on conviction, be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both.”
The date of my email 13 March 2019 was the first date I came to know, from a newspaper report, of existence of a Government entity named “Wildlife Crime Control Bureau”. My email fully declared our African ivory as a gift from decades past, admitted our failure to register these for ignorance or legal obscurity over the years, sought information how to proceed towards this now.
This will inform you our family has possessed legal African ivory for forty years given to us by a family member, Ambassador Henri Lobert of the Belgian diplomatic service about 1978 or 1979. Amb Lobert was the husband of my late sister Sucheta who died in 1990 at age 42 from breast cancer. The couple had no children. The last known address of Amb Lobert was 33 Avenue Livingstone, Brussells. He will be retired now at age 75+. A photo of him, second from right in the front row, from about 1978/79 with President Kaunda of Zambia (third from right front row) is enclosed. The ivory was gifted at that time by Amb Lobert to his mother in law, my late mother Smt Purnima Roy (1925:2016), wife of my late father Ambassador MK Roy Indian Foreign Service (1915:2012) and is now owned by me as a gift from my mother before her passing two years ago. The main item is a large tusk, a photo of which is enclosed. It is an ornamental piece for hanging on a wall. In addition there are three small ivory sculptures also from Africa in a glass cupboard, also from Amb Lobert in the late 1970s.
My late parents did not know anything about the need for registration of legal ivory items, and were not in any position to follow up. I will be grateful to you if you or your staff could kindly inform me how this may be done by myself. Thanking you”
This is the first information you ever received about our five items of old African ivory (four are mentioned because one had been forgotten inside a glass cupboard) that we have lawfully had in our home for forty years, which you wrongfully seized by brute force on 2 May 2019.
To be a criminal one has to have done something illegal and with criminal intent. Neither my late mother nor I after her death did anything criminal with the African ivory she had been gifted by her Belgian diplomat son-in-law Henri Lobert some 40 years ago.
At some point or perhaps points in time, maybe 30 years ago — the Government of India does not know itself and is certainly unable to tell anyone now — people in India holding “animal products” were required to get Government certifications.
But the certification procedure was then, and remains today, totally obscure even to the Government, to lawyers, to law enforcement authorities, to everyone, except perhaps chosen “Dealers”, who knows?
Into that breach of Government-created obscurity stepped the natural abuse of power… So a class of normal law abiding citizens became criminals for holding “animal products” without due certification, except very few ordinary people knew what that due certification was or how it was to be gotten.
By the Government’s arbitrary law making — reversing the burden of proof so the holder of eg ivory has to prove he/she was not holding it criminally — people started to live in fear of blackmail or sudden “search and seizure” by officials…
I had not returned permanently to India, and advised my elderly parents to get our African ivory certified but they remained clueless how to do so and I was unable to find out as well.
It was only during the 2 May 2019 home invasion by the Government officials sent by you that I found out vaguely what the procedure might have been!
Besides my sister died of breast cancer in 1990 age 42 and my parents were in shock ever since and perhaps unwilling to think about the ivory she and her husband had brought them as gifts years earlier.
My mother died in 2016 the lawful owner of African ivory she had received as a gift in the late 1970s which she had admittedly failed to get certified by the Government of India when the Government had demanded it, because she and my father had remained clueless what was required of them — and the Government to this day cannot say what that was and when!
The African ivory items came to my possession. On 13.3.2019 I chanced upon a news report which mentioned your “Wildlife Crime Control Bureau”, and felt that seemed the place to start, and I declared our ivory to you requesting information how to proceed further for certification…
Instead your Stasi-like tyranny took over at once! And I have coined the hashtag #IndiasStasi at Twitter! You denounced me as a “criminal who had confessed”, advised I get a lawyer, and promised sudden warrantless search of my home!
That sudden warrantless search happened on 2 May 2019, with you sending some 8 or 10 people to my home including three Central Armed Police out of uniform…
My local police station had been informed by me but did not respond… My lawyers advised I be passive which I agreed was wise…
It was during the 3 or 4 hour home invasion by these officials that I asked them what the certification process was, and finally found that out for the first time in thirty years!
You confiscated our African ivory of forty years because we obviously did not have the papers we had not known over thirty years how to get!
I was made to sign a form (the “Seizure List”) under duress in my own home.
I agreed I would sign if I was allowed to write my comment “illegal seizure’”, and state “Wrongful, Vexatious, Unnecessary Seizure of Property violating Article 53 Wildlife Protection Act 1972”.
No, your officials said, there is no room for any comment on the form, only your signature. I refused. You threatened “If you don’t sign the form, we will take ‘punitive action’… ie arrest and jail me immediately was the implication, and I was urged to sign especially by the “Central Armed Police” officials out of uniform. Classic Stasi techniques in my own home, thought I… !
Now after the sudden home invasion on 2 May 2019, I was warned by legal friends to expect to be arrested & jailed… Your letter summoning me to interrogation on 24 May at least indicates there is no sudden arbitrary arrest being threatened until then.
But someone tell me kindly at what point did my mother become a criminal for holding her ivory without new papers the Government demanded (no one knows when or how) and then myself? Arresting and jailing me for trying to declare gifted and inherited African ivory from the late 1970s at the first opportunity we knew how to? Did my 13.3.2019 email make me a criminal confessing a crime, as you #IndiasStasi have claimed? Of course not. Was my mother a criminal at the time she died or any time earlier for not getting her African ivory certified in some obscure way at some uncertain time or times in years past stated by the Government somewhere, when the Government today is completely unable to specify what or when the procedure was? Hardly.
The Government’s law mentions “Dealers” and does not even seem to mention ordinary citizens owning “animal products” as my mother had done!
“Kindly keep our family property unlawfully seized by you yesterday safe and secure. Kindly be good enough to send me by email or courier a digital copy of the complete videograph records taken by two Central Armed Police personnel in your team yesterday during my home invasion.”
Oh yes two of your Central Armed Police officers breached my Fundamental Right to Privacy for about the whole time they were here by videographing inside my home for two or three hours.
Please come to tea. I also do not know what the “Compounding” clauses of payment of a fine or penalty refer to, and you can clarify that. I do not dispute that we have been (slightly) negligent in failing to get our lawful African ivory registered over the decades. More specifically perhaps, our family’s responsibility is 4%, the Government of India’s responsibility is 96%!
The Wildlife law is bad in its tyrannical implementation by Forest Officers against innocent masses of India, it is prima facie ultra vires of the Constitution and Criminal Procedure. It is up to you yourselves in the Government to correct it at once.
And yes, please return our old African ivory at once, and offer due compensation for the harassment caused.
Or if you prefer not to accept my invitation to tea, please recuse yourself from this investigation on grounds of your proven bias against me, and I will be happy to cooperate with your colleagues to establish there has been 0 “Wildlife Crime’ or any other crime by us.
Subroto Roy 9 May 2019