Friday, June 2, 2023

Feeding stray dogs: Supreme Court dismisses SLP filed against Delhi HC order

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The Supreme Court’s three-judge bench of Justice U.U. Lalit, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia has dismissed the SLP (C) No. 4731 of 2022 filed against a judgment and order passed by the Delhi High Court vide order dated 24.06.2021 in I.A. No. 4164 of 2021 in CS (OS) 277/2020 vacated the interim order.

A bench of Justices Vineet Saran and Aniruddha Bose had granted permission to file SLP to petitioners Humane Foundation for People and Animals and passed interim order dated 04.03.2022, which had stayed the operation of the order passed by the Delhi High Court.  

The Delhi High Court in its judgment and order dated 24.06.2021 took cognizance of the larger issue in the sharp rise in conflicts between residents and community dog feeders, care givers. Further, it relied on the guidelines issued by the AWBI in compliance with the judgment of the Delhi High Court in Citizens for Protection of Animals v. State and Anr. WP (Cri) No. 467/ 2009 framing various guidelines for feeding of community dogs while keeping in view the safety of other residents and concluded as follows:

“146. It shall be the duty and responsibility of the RWA or Municipal Corporation and all Government authorities including enforcement authorities like Police to provide all assistance and ensure that no hindrance is caused to the caregivers or feeders of community dogs. It shall be the duty and responsibility of the jurisdictional SHO to ensure that peace and harmony is maintained amongst the residents, care-givers and community dog feeders and there is no harassment to any care-giver or community dog feeder from feeding community dogs in the manner specified.

147. It is the duty and obligation of every Resident Welfare Association or Municipal Corporation (in case RWA is not available), to ensure that every community dog in every area has access to food and water in the absence of caregivers or community dog feeders in the said area.

148. AWBI shall ensure that every Resident Welfare Association or Municipal Corporation (in case RWA is not available), shall have an Animal Welfare Committee, which shall be responsible for ensuring compliance of the provisions of the PCA Act and ensure harmony and ease of communication between caregivers, feeders or animal lovers and other residents.

149. In case, any resident(s) or the RWA has any grievance with regard to any act of caregivers and feeders, in relation to feeding of community dogs, the said resident(s), shall, at the first instance redressal of their grievance through a process of dialogue and discussion through the Animal Welfare Committee failing which the said issue may be brought to the notice of the AWBI through the RWA. The AWBI shall ensure expeditious resolution of the issues.

150. The Government of India (Ministry of Personal, Public Grievances and Pensions, Department of Personal and Training) by Office Memorandum dated 26th May, 2006 notified that the Government servant who indulges in act of cruelty to animals will be making himself liable for action under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Besides, punishment under the Act, he would also make himself liable for action under CCS(Conduct) Rules for conduct unbecoming of a Government servant. The said Office Memorandum also added that while residents and Associations are free to address institutional agencies for redressal of their grievances, no resident/association will interfere with the freedom of other residents in tending animals etc. AWBI shall bring this to the notice of RWA of Government employees.

151. Despite the clear position of law prohibiting cruelty to the animal including stray dogs, there is increasing tendency of the citizens to defy the same. Many times, the Government employees take up a position in complete violation of well settled law which has been dealt with in the Office Memorandum dated 26th May, 2006. Such act of defiance be noted down in the ACR file of Government employee. If any such complaint is received by AWBI, the same be sent to the concerned office for being placed in the ACR file of the Government employee for necessary action as per CCS Rules.

152. There is a need to spread awareness that even animals have a right to live with respect and dignity. AWBI shall carry out an awareness campaign in association with various Newspapers, Television, Radio Channels and Social Media platforms. AWBI shall also ensure these Guidelines are disseminated through the above- mentioned media. AWBI shall circulate these Guidelines to various Resident Welfare Associations, the Police Department, Municipal Authorities etc.”

The above conclusions arrived at by the High Court are for the effective implementation of the guidelines time and again issued by the AWBI since 2010 including guidelines dated 27.01.2010, 26.02.2015, 25.08.2015, 28.10.2015, 14.08.2020 and 03.03.2021 stating the duties to be fulfilled by various enforcement authorities including the RWAs and the police. Therefore, the order passed dismissing the SLP filed against the order of the Delhi High Court effectively maintains the view taken by Justice Midha and the existing guidelines of the AWBI for feeding stray dogs. 

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