The Supreme Court asked owners of elephants that are used in festivals or religious activities to ensure that they are not treated with cruelty and any failure to treat them with care and concern including on the part of the organisers of such events would be deemed contempt of the court.
“As an ad interim measure, all the organizers, owners of the elephants and the festival coordination committee are directed to see that any elephant that is engaged in the performance of any festival activities or any activity relating to any festivity is not treated or meted with cruelty,” said a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C. Pant in their order.
“If it is established before this court that an elephant has been meted with cruelty, the organizers, the Committee members and anyone involved with it shall be impleaded in this case and be proceeded for contempt,” it said and directed the listing of matter on July 14 for further hearing.
The court’s ad interim order came on an application by Gauri Maulekhai seeking direction that elephants are not to be exhibited, paraded or used for performance in any religious festival, programme in Kerala unless the owner or person in charge of the animal obtains registration under the provisions of the Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001.
Senior counsel Siddarth Luthra who appeared for Maulekhi told the court that there is a statutory prohibition for engaging elephants for performance in any festival or any activity relating to any festivity. The Animal Welfare Board has supported the position taken by Luthra.
However, senior counsel Vaidyanathan, who appeared for the Festival Coordination Committee, told the court that there was no legal prohibition on employing elephants during religious functions. He sought time to address the court on this count.
The court adjourned the hearing on Wednesday as Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar had sought four weeks time to file a response to the application.