New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday took note of pleas alleging cruelty meted out to captive elephants in Kerala, particularly in temples, and directed the top wildlife officer to undertake a headcount of all of them and act against those keeping them without the requisite permission.
"As far as the present issue is concerned, we are inclined to direct that the Chief Wildlife Warden shall see to it that all the captive elephants existing in the State of Kerala are counted and in the absence of obtainment of requisite certificate under Section 42 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 and the declaration made under Section 40, appropriate action shall be initiated against the owners," the bench of Justices Dipak Misra and R Banumathi said.
Dealing with charges of cruelty meted to the elephants in Kerala, the court said it would be the state's obligation to see that registration of the pachyderms is carried out.
"It shall be the duty of the State, the District Committee, Management of the Devaswom, the Management of the Temple and the owners of the elephants to see that no elephant is meted with any kind of cruelty and, if it is found, apart from being lodging of criminal prosecution, they shall face severe consequences which may include confiscation of the elephants to the State," the bench said.
Referring to the Kerala Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules, it said on its perusal, it was "clear as crystal that it obliges the District Committee to take necessary measures to ensure that the festival committee constituted for smooth conduct of the festivals or the persons organising such functions in which elephants are exposed are required to adhere to many a measure. The District Committee is bound by the Rules and see to it that the festival committees follow the same."
It asked "temples or the Devaswom" to get themselves registered with the district committee within six weeks to ensure that elephants are used properly in religious events.
Elephants are used to participate in religious festivals and processions in Kerala and also to carry the deities.
"We think that they should be registered with the Committee and accordingly it is directed that the registration shall be done within a period of six weeks from today. The temple and Devaswom shall, apart from other formalities, also mention how many elephants it is going to use in any festival," it said.