SC seeks Centre, states response on owning elephantstext_fields
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre and several states including Kerala and Goa to apprise it on whether a person can keep an elephant in his custody as the owner under the wild life protection laws.
A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said if there is no prohibition for keeping an elephant, then what rule would govern the upkeep of a wild animal like pachyderm. The bench also comprising Justice Shiva Kirti Singh asked who the authorities were to regulate the health and upkeep of elephants.
The direction came after Animal Welfare Board submitted a report regarding the upkeep of three elephants and alleged violation of Wild Life (Protection) Act by two resorts in Goa.
Senior advocate CA Sundaram appearing for Animal Welfare Board in its report has mentioned 10 aspects pertaining to apparent violation of animal protection laws and guidelines and made recomendations for the upkeep of elephants.
The bench posted the matter for further hearing on April 27 and sought the replies within three weeks. The direction came on two applications moved on a PIL, filed by six organisations and individuals including Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre, which said the number of captive elephants kept by private persons and religious institutions stood at over 3,000.
The two pleas alleged that the elephants, used for religious processions or rides, were chained and ill-treated in violation of the statutory provisions. Earlier, on December 8, the apex court had sought reply from the Centre, Rajasthan and Goa on pleas alleging that cruelty was being meted out to elephants used for such rides in these states.
The court had taken note of pleas alleging cruelty meted out to captive elephants in Kerala, particularly in temples, and directed the top wildlife officer to undertake a head count of all of them and act against those keeping them without the requisite permission.
Kerala had informed the court that there are total 599 privately-owned elephants in the state, out of which 289 have no declared owners under the Wildlife Act. The court had directed the Chief Wildlife Warden to ensure that all captive elephants in Kerala are counted and registered. Elephants are used to participate in religious festivals and processions in Kerala and also to carry the deities.