Chennai: Noting that an elephant is being used for begging and subjected to ill-treatment in Madurai, the Madras high court has directed the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden to take possession of the elephant-Malachi from the custody of one Indira, immediately.
A division bench comprising Justices S.Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad gave the directive while allowing a petition from S.Muralidharan, claiming himself to be an avid animal lover.
The bench also directed the PCCF and CWW to decide the application, for transfer of ownership certificate immediately. “We are not expressing any opinion, as to how the application for ownership certificate should be dealt with which shall be done on its own merit, keeping in mind the materials available on record. The Principal Chief Conservator of Forest and Chief Wildlife Warden may either keep the elephant in a camp or transport it to a Zoo, in accordance with law”, the bench added.
According to the petitioner, a female elephant, aged about 34 years, was owned by one Mrs.Masan, resident of Rangat, North and Middle Andaman District. Masan wanted to gift the said elephant-Malachi to Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple and for that purpose she gifted the elephant to Indira. Indira did not hand over the elephant to the temple instead the elephant was being used for begging and subjected to ill-treatment. Complaints have been filed before the authorities. But there was no response, he added.
The bench said a perusal of the additional counter affidavit filed by PCCF and CWW shows that cases have been registered against the care takers of the elephant. It has also been categorically stated that no permit had been issued by PCCF and CWW, permitting the elephant to be in marriage functions/temple functions/religious functions etc., at any point of time. There was no denial on the part of Indira that the elephant has not been used for any marriage functions. Counsel for Indira stated that elephant was not used for any begging purpose, but when the elephant walks on the road, people would themselves come and offer money. This excuse cannot be accepted. Counsel for Indira also stated that they were not responsible for the collection of money. Material on record shows that fine up to Rs 25,000 has been imposed on the care takers of the elephant and they have paid the fine. Ownership certificate has not yet been transferred to Indira. Material on record further indicates that various provisions of Prevent
ion of Cruelty to Animals Act and the Tamil Nadu Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules have been violated, the bench added.
The bench said though on the basis of the report of the District Level Captive Elephant Welfare Committee, counsel for Indira submitted that the elephant was taken care of properly and that the committee had opined that the custody of the elephant can be retained with the care taker, the fact that the elephant has been used for begging and that the care taker has been fined for five times, cannot be brushed aside. The last incident of imposition of fine of Rs 25,000 on August 1, 2018, for begging was after the filing of the instant petition. Even taking it for granted that the elephant was adequately fed and taken care, the manner in which the elephant has been used cannot be ignored. “Disregard to the statutory rule, is apparent on the face of record. In such a scenario, the elephant cannot be permitted to kept in the custody of Indira”, the bench added and gave the directive.