Dog appears in Indian court charged with biting

Posted on 12:51 PM by Sameer Shah

Chotu, the model of docility when he appeared in court last week, was sentenced to death five years ago for a similar offence in its home town of Purnea, 140 miles east of the state capital Patna, but was rescued by animal rights activists.

Accompanied by owner Rajkumari Devi, a childless widow, the dog quietly heard the charge sheet against him being read out with due solemnity and his paws crossed.

"The court was compelled to issue a summons to the dog since the police found that it was a threat to peace and feared that it might create a law and order problem," district magistrate Rajiv Ranjan said.

Chotu's lawyer, Dalip Kumar Deepak, defended his client, pointing out that, despite the presence of many people in the courtroom, the dog did not bite or bark at anyone.

Rajkumari inherited the dog from her mother, who picked it up off the street and considers the animal her protector.

She claims Chotu has bitten only people trying to break into her one-room hut.

She claimed the aggressors were jealous neighbours trying to steal her land deeds in order to seize her property.

Chotu's next court appearance is August 5.

Dogs have featured frequently in Indian courts, on both sides of the law.

India's most notorious bandit, Veerappan, relied on his mongrel, Itappa, to sniff out rare sandalwood trees for him in thick jungles which he then cut down and sold.

But when the master was hauled in, so was the 13-year-old mongrel, which spent nearly 10 years in custody. Three years ago, Itappa was released on 2000 rupee (£24.40) bail for good behaviour in southern India.

India's Supreme Court also recently acquitted a man convicted of murder on the basis of a sniffer dog's "evidence", ruling that a human's life and liberty cannot depend on "canine inference".

It acquitted Dinesh Borthakur, an engineer who spent four years in jail after a trial court in north-eastern Assam state found him guilty of murdering his wife and six-year old adopted daughter in 1999 because a police dog had "fingered" him at the crime scene.

"Since it is manifest that the dog cannot go into the box and give his evidence on oath and consequently submit itself to cross-examination, the dog's human companion must report the dog's evidence and this clearly is hearsay," the two-judge bench declared.

And though the Court conceded that the services of sniffer dogs may be used to investigate crimes, their faculties "cannot be taken as evidence to establish the guilt of the accused".

There is a feeling that in criminal cases, the life and liberty of a human being should not depend on canine inference, the judgment concluded.

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