The Madras High Court on June 12, 2019, in the case of S. Muralidharan v. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests & Chief Wildlife Warden, has directed the Department of Forests to take possession of Malachi, a female elephant aged about 34 years, which was being used for begging and subjected to ill treatment.
A Bench comprising of Justices S. Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad was hearing a petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India by an animal lover S. Muralidharan who complained of the ill-treatment of the elephant by one Indira, a Madurai-based lady.
The petitioner stated that the female elephant was owned by Mrs. Masan, a resident of Andaman Islands, who had given it to Indira for gifting it to Madurai's Meenakshi temple. However, instead of gifting the elephant to temple, Indira started using her for begging and marriage functions.
It was alleged in the petition that the elephant was being subjected to cruelty and that she was not fed properly and was made to walk on hot tar roads. Both her front and back legs are tied using heavy chain. It was further alleged that there was violation of Section 11 (e), 11 (f), 11 (h) of Prevention to Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and Rules 5, 6 (11), 7, 12, 13 (5), 13 (6) and 1 (8) of the Tamil Nadu Captive Elephants Management & Maintenance Rules, 2011, and also under Section 42 of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden in his counter affidavit stated that Indira was fined several times for ill-treatment and mentioned that her application for ownership certificate of the elephant was rejected. It was added that orders were issued for return of the elephant to Andamans.
On the other hand, Indira had denied the allegations and said that people automatically came and offered money to the elephant while she was walking on the road; the elephant was not used for any begging purpose, she said. She also claimed that the elephant was being taken care of well. However, the court was not impressed by this argument.
"Even taking it for granted, that the elephant is adequately fed and taken care, the manner in which the elephant has been used, cannot be ignored. Disregard to the statutory rules, is apparent on the face of record,” said the court.
"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 the third respondent. Material on record further indicates that various provisions of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the Tamil Nadu Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules, 2011 have been violated,” the court added.
Thus, in view of unimpeachable material on record, showing that elephant was being used for begging and subjected to ill treatment, the court allowed the writ petition and directed the Department of Forests to take possession of the elephant, forthwith.
It observed that the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests & Chief Wildlife Warden may either keep the elephant in a camp or transport her to a zoo, in accordance with law.