Friday, February 3, 2023

Meghalaya High Court seeks effective rules from state government to treat animals

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The Meghalaya High Court has said  that  the State government  would do well to look into the various suggestions to set up a memorandum of procedure so that there can be effective implementation of the rules and more ethical treatment of animals, whatever may be the end use thereof.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice  Sanjib Banerjee,  Justice W. Diengdoh heard a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Gau Gyan Foundation pertains to the treatment of animals in the State incourse of transportation or even culling thereof.

Several aspects of the ill-treatment of animals have been highlighted in the petition and in the course of the proceedings. However, thepetitioner submitted that the State has taken several key measures to deal with the matter and to ensure that animals are treated with more kindness and dignity than had been accorded to them previously.  

Notwithstanding the steps taken by the State, there are several other measures which need to be taken, both in respect of the treatment of animals and to ensure better hygiene, said the Bench. 
In earlier orders, the High Court has repeatedly referred to the brazen display of animal meat on the roadside open to the dust and grime. Even in and around the capital city of Shillong The practice continues. Apart from the distressing sight of severed body parts of animals being put on display, the meat allowed to remain in such a state may not be ideal to consume .

“There is also the other matter of how chickens are transported. More often than not a large number of chickens are tied by their legs and hung from bicycle handles or other forms of vehicles, mostly carried upside down. While the animals have, no doubt, been raised to ultimately be culled for food, there is an element of decency that must be maintained. The practice now is one of extreme cruelty”, the Court observed.

Four further points have been made on behalf of the petitioner.The first pertains to a notification of July 12, 2019 by which instructions for regulating the transportation of cattle within the State have been issued.The second aspect emphasised on pertains to paragraph 20(V) of the affidavit filed by the State on June 13, 2022. The third and fourth aspects are similar in that they refer to the constitution of the district-level or  market-level animal welfare committees and the monitoring committee with representatives of animal welfare organisations.

As to the transportation of cattle, the petitioner said that there areCentral rules that provide for the transportation of various animals indifferent forms and the State should adhere to the same. It is also thepetitioner’s grievance that the instructions of July 12, 2019 regulate the entry of cattle but do not adequately provide for the transportation thereof within the State. 
“This is a point of some importance and the State will surely look into such aspects and, if so advised, issue fresh instructions to provide for means of transport and the conditions therefor”.

As to the seized animals, the State’s affidavit said that they would be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the Prevention ofCruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals)Rules, 2017. The petitioner pointed  out that under the Rules of 2017, seized animals are required to be preserved in various places and conditions therefore have been indicated in the said Rules of 2017. The petitioner laments that the State’s affidavit does not indicate appropriate infrastructure for preserving the animals during the pendency of the cases. 
“Again, since it is the State’s obligation and also intent to act in accordance with the rules, no meaningful effect can be given thereto without setting up appropriate spaces for the due preservation of the animals’, held the High Court.

The third and fourth related aspects pertain to how the animal welfare committees, whether at the district-level or at the market-level or the monitoring committees meet or decide on regulating the manner in which the animals would be dealt with within their jurisdictions. 
For a start, the petitioner apprehends that there may not be adequate animal welfare organisations in existence or otherwise identified for member representatives therefrom being chosen. The Second point on such an aspect is that since the other members of such committees are high-powered officials, the extent of participation of the invitee members representing the animal welfare organisations would be limited. The petitioner suggested that appropriate rules or a memorandum of procedure be drawn up for meetings to be convened at regular intervals and for the animal welfare organisation representatives to have a forum to hear their grievances in the event that their suggestions are not adhered to or respected by the superior officials on the relevant committees.  

The Court observed that  again, the petitioner is perfectly justified in pointing out such aspects of the matter. Oftentimes, committees are constituted that never meet. Even if such committees meet once in a blue moon, very little comes out of such meetings. 
The Bench also appreciated the measures already put in place by the State and encouraged the State to carry on the goodwork in such regard. Matter is listed  on December 16, 2022 for further hearing.

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