SC's notice on pleas of cruelty against elephants in joyrides

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today sought responses from the Centre, Rajasthan and Goa on pleas alleging that cruelty is being meted out to elephants used for joyrides in these states.

Representational pic
Photo: AFP

A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant asked Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar to find out as to whether the elephants, used for joyrides, are being subjected to cruelty in violation of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. 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 such rides, were chained and ill-treated in violation of the statutory provisions. The Solicitor General, during the hearing, said there was no provision which suggest that an elephant cannot be used for such joyrides. The court, seeking responses from the Animal Welfare Board
states and their authorities, said there should not be any violation of the legal provisions.

Earlier, the court had taken note of pleas alleging cruelty meted out to captive elephants in Kerala, particularly in temples, and had directed the top wildlife officer to undertake a head count of all of them and act against those keeping them without the requisite permission. During the hearing, the counsel for Kerala today informed the court that there are total 599 private persons-owned elephants in the state and 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. It had also 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.

The Solicitor General and the counsel for Kerala had told the bench that the elephants participating in religious festivals and processions carry the deities and are not covered under the statutory definition of "performing animals" and hence, do not need to be registered. Earlier, the apex court had asked the Centre and others including Animal Welfare Board to ensure that no elephant is "treated or meted with cruelty" during religious festivals across the country.

The court had issued notice to the Centre, nine states and the Animal Welfare Board of India on the PIL seeking steps for protection and welfare of elephants held in captivity including a complete ban on their sale, gifting and use in religious festivals.

The figure of captive elephants is more than those which are with the forest department, zoos and circus and they were being traded openly and subjected to cruelty in violation of laws like the Wild Life (Protection) Act and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, it had contended.

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