The 15-year-old wild elephant, which was two months pregnant, had wandered out of the local Silent Valley National Park in search of food when it consumed the firecracker-spiked fruit.
They later found the elephant
trying to cool herself in a stream but as locals tried to heave it out of the water to take it to a treatment centre, the animal collapsed and died. Postmortem report revealed that the elephant
died from drowning.
"Sorry sister," Mohan Krishnan, who witnessed the elephant's death, wrote in a Facebook post. "With her mouth and tongue destroyed in the explosion, she paced around hungry without being able to eat. She must have been more worried about the health of the child inside her than about her own hunger."
After the news of the incident broke the internet, furious netizens and animal activists took to Twitter, trending the hashtag #RIPHumanity. Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of the Tata group and one of India's leading businessmen, said "justice needs to prevail".
People are now demanding strict action against the accused.
Punishment under animal protection laws
Animal rights are protected under Article 51A(G) of the Constitution, which makes it a citizen's duty to protect wildlife and show compassion for living creatures.
In the Concurrent List, both the Centre and states are given the power to prevent cruelty to animals and protect wild animals and birds.
The overarching legal framework to act against cases of animal cruelty is the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, which aims to stop the infliction of unnecessary suffering or pain on animals.
Under this, the perpetrator will be punishable with fine which may extend to Rs 100, or with imprisonment for a term that may extend to three months, or both.
However, since the elephant was wild, and not domesticated, the culprits are likely to be prosecuted under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, another central Act which helps the cause of protection of not just animals, but also birds and plants.
Punishment under Wildlife Protection Act
The people behind this crime can face a maximum of seven years in jail. The Act states that anyone found guilty of capturing, poisoning , trapping, or baiting a wild animal -- or even attempting to do so – can face a fine of Rs 25,000 or seven years in jail, or both.