Frame comprehensive policy on ownership of elephants, High Court tells T.N. govt.

It says those who mistreat animals must be dealt with as mercilessly as they deal with animals

The Madras High Court on Tuesday directed the State government to come up with a comprehensive policy, after consulting experts, for banning future ownership of elephants by temples and private individuals besides ensuring that the welfare of the elephants already under private custody was taken care of by the Forest Department.

Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy issued the interim direction on a batch of four public interest litigation petitions filed by activist Rangarajan Narasimhan complaining about mistreatment meted out to temple elephants. He accused the Forest Department and Animal Welfare Board of India of failing to monitor the welfare of such animals.

Referring to a video of Srivilliputtur Andal temple elephant Jayamalyatha being beaten up by its mahout and another caretaker at a rejuvenation camp in Thekkampatti of Coimbatore district, the judges wrote that some temple elephants might actually not be treated well “as was evident from a video which went viral on the social media a couple of days ago.”

Coming down hard on such ill treatment of animals, the Bench said: “Any kind of mistreatment of elephants and other animals must be dealt with promptly and as mercilessly as such persons deal with the animals. Exploitation of animals for all purposes should be stopped except for limited government-controlled exercises such as horse-riding or camel-riding on the beaches.”

Even such rides should not be allowed to be operated by private individuals since the treatment of the animals could not be checked or monitored, the Bench said and granted time till April 27 for the State government to come up with comprehensive policy and guidelines on rehabilitation of all animals including elephants which had been lured away from their natural habitats.

Adequate measures must be put in place to ensure that the elephants were not exploited any more in the State for joy rides or used as beasts of burden to transport heavy material, the judges added.

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