Friday, December 1, 2023

Uttarakhand High Court directs senior officials to address PIL raising issue of extreme ill-treatment being meted out to equines

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The Uttarakhand High Court directed the Secretary, Animal Husbandry, the Chairperson of the Executive Committee of the State Animal Welfare Board and the concerned District Magistrates, to remain present before the Court on the next date.

The District Magistrates may join the proceedings virtually, whereas the two officers should personally remain present in Court, to assist the Court.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rakesh Thapliyal heard a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) raising issue the extreme ill-treatment being meted out to equines, which are deployed in the Kedarnath, Yamunotri, Gangotri, Gaumukh and Hemkhud Sahib pilgrimage routes for the purpose of carrying pilgrims as well as goods.

The petitioner, who appears in-person, pointed out that each year, hundreds, if not thousands, of equines die while being used by their handlers.

There is utter lack of sensitivity and complete indifference, not only on the part of the handlers, who treat the animals as a mere source of income, but also on the part of the Administration, which is blind to the enormity of the suffering, to which, the equines are being subjected.

Gauri Maulekhi, petitioner, in-person further submitted that there is hardly any infrastructure created on these routes, and there is no proper regulation, and monitoring by the Authorities to ensure that the animals are properly looked after while they render services, and they are attended to medically whenever such medical attention is necessary.

Maulekhi has submitted that the Animal Welfare Board of India has framed a Standard Operating Procedure, which should be enforced by the State. The State Animal Welfare Board has framed its own SOP, which she states is highly diluted, and even that is not being implemented on the ground.

Maulekhi has drawn the attention of the Court to the communication dated 25.06.2022, that her organization has sent, highlighting the immediate and urgent steps that need to be taken by the Stat for the welfare of the equines.

The Bench directed the State to respond to the said communication, point by point, by filing an affidavit within two weeks.

The Court clarified that the present proceedings are not adversarial and the reason for requiring their presence is to be able to communicate to them our concern, and to hear them with regard to the steps taken by them in relation to the issue raised by the petitioner and the matter is listed on 10.08.2023 for further hearing.

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