HC asks Maharashtra govt about steps to rehabilitate 'Victoria' owners, coachmen

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The Bombay High Court today directed the Maharashtra government to file an affidavit on what steps it has taken towards framing a comprehensive policy for rehabilitation of owners and coachmen of 'Victoria' horse carriages, which have been banned from plying in the city.

A division bench of Justices V M Kanade and P R Bora, while directing the government to file its affidavit in two weeks, quipped, "We are sure in future also nothing will happen."

In June 2015, the high court had directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to put a complete stop in one year on the carriages pulled by horses, famously known as 'Victoria' carriages, as they are "illegal and violative of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act".

The HC had then directed the state government to frame a comprehensive policy to rehabilitate those people (carriage owners and coachmen) who would be affected by the ban and also the horses.

The direction was given in a PIL filed by city-based NGO 'Animals and Birds Charitable Trust' alleging cruelty to horses by using them for joyrides. When the matter came up today before the high court, Additional Government Pleader Milind More sought four months' time to frame the policy. He told the court that the committee set up on the issue has held two hearings.

"The committee has so far identified 221 people who would be affected by the ban. The committee is still hearing several persons on the issue and hence would take some time to come up with a policy," More said. The court, however, said it wants to know on affidavit what steps the government has taken so far.

"We are surprised that in two years since the order was passed, the government has not been able to frame a policy till date. The government shall explain what steps it has taken in the past two years," Justice Kanade said.

"We still see these carriages plying at Marine Drive (south Mumbai). Has the BMC done nothing to stop them from plying?" he said.

The court said that apart from rehabilitation of carriage owners and drivers, the government will have to take steps towards rehabilitating the horses too.

"They (horses) should get food, water and shelter," the HC said.

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