HC to consider banning keeping elephants in captivity

Response of the State on the issue already sought: court

The Madras High Court on Monday said that it shall consider as to whether in future there should be a complete prohibition on elephants being kept as captive animals for various temple duties or as beasts of burden in the State. The court pointed out that it had already called for the response of the State government on the issue and that the matter would be decided after eliciting the reply.

Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy said that in the interregnum, the State authorities should immediately look into the wellbeing of all captive elephants and file a report to the Animal Husbandry Secretary for initiating appropriate action, wherever it was necessary. The observations were made while disposing of a public interest litigation petition for feeding stray animals.

During the hearing of the case primarily focused on feeding stray dogs and cats during the lockdown, the judges had insisted upon ensuring that even horses and captive elephants do not go hungry. A committee, comprising animal lovers, was constituted to collect money for feeding the animals and come up with suggestions on their long-term welfare by subjecting the stray animals to immunisation and so on.

Representing the committee, advocate A. Yogeshwaran said that Governor Banwarilal Purohit had contributed ₹10 lakh [from his discretionary grant] for feeding the stray animals and that the State government too allotted ₹9.2 lakh from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. The committee also received donations to the tune of ₹60,962 from the general public and used the money to procure dog and cat feed.

He said 2,500 kg of dog feed and 200 kg of cat feed was purchased for ₹2.2 lakh and distributed to community feeders. Similarly, horse feed for ₹95,680 was also procured to feed the horses used for joy rides on the beaches in the city but could not be fed well by their owners because of the lockdown. The horse feed was provided to 104 horse owners in the city, he added.

On the status of captive elephants, the lawyer said that absolutely no information was available with respect to the wellbeing of captive elephants though they all come under the control of the Forest Department. He recalled that a Government Order was issued in 2016 for constituting district-level captive elephant welfare committees and that those committees could be asked to submit a report.

Not wanting to do that in the present petition, the judges disposed of the case with an observation that they had already called for the State government’s response on the issue of banning the practice of keeping elephants in captivity in another case and that the matter would be decided while hearing that case.

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