The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed for registration of all elephants held captive in Kerala to ensure they were given due care and not subjected to cruelty during festivals.
A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant directed the devaswoms (temple administration body) to get the elephants registered with the respective district committees under the rules within six weeks to ensure “proper and effective control”.
After noting abuses suffered by the captive elephants, the court said any cruelty in future will lead to criminal prosecution.
“It shall be the duty of the state, the district committee (set up under the Kerala Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules, 2012, devaswoms, temple managements and elephant owners to see that no elephant is meted with any kind of cruelty. If it is found, apart from lodging of criminal prosecution, they shall face severe consequences, which may include confiscation of the elephants to the state,” the court said.
The court directed the state’s festival committees to adhere to the rules which put as many as 18 conditions for using an elephant during festivals. These included sufficient space between elephants in a procession or parade, sick, pregnant or elephants in musth will not be used, chains or hobbles or spike wil not be used, no walking of elephants on tarred roads without long periods of rest, no bursting of crackers near an elephant, provision for food and water, presence of a vet, protect them from bodily harm and taunts, ensure the mahouts are not drunk, etc.
The court said that it is for the district committee to see that festival committees follow the rules.
It further directed the chief wildlife warden to make an exact count of captive elephants in the state on the basis of data already available with his office for giving ownership certificates under the Protection of Wildlife Act, 1972.
The court, however, said it will decide later if captive elephants should be registered with the Animal Welfare Board of India as per the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, since the state government opposed such registration.
Earlier, the Animal Welfare Board of India had submitted a report pointing out gross physical and mental torture suffered by elephants during Thrissur Pooram this year.