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The Court also directed the Animal Welfare Board to carry out a nationwide survey and submit a report on the condition of circuses amid the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Delhi High Court on Tuesday issued notice in a petition seeking a direction to prohibit the exhibition or training of animals in circuses (Federation of Indian Animal Rights Protection Organizations vs Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying & Ors).
Notice to the Central Government and Animal Welfare Board of India was issued by a Division Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rajnish Bhatnagar in the petition by the Federation of Indian Animal Rights Protection Organizations (Petitioner).
Pursuant to a plea to save animals from suffering during the pandemic, the Court also directed the Animal Welfare Board to carry out a nationwide survey and file a report ascertaining the condition of circuses amid the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Petitioner is a collective of over 100 organizations that work towards the protection of animal rights.
The Petitioner seeks a direction to declare Sections 21 to 27 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, to the extent that they permit the exhibition or training of animals in circuses, ultra vires Sections 3 and 11 (1) of the Act and Articles 21, 48A and 51A(g) of the Constitution of India.
Challenge is also made against the Performing Animal Rules,1973 and Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001, to the extent that they allow the registration of animals as "performing animals" in relation to a circus.
The Petitioner has asserted that circuses “train” animals to act contrary to their natural instincts by beating them with sticks, whipping, poking through sharp metal rods, starving etc.
Although performance by monkeys, bears, tigers, panthers, lions etc. is banned, several animals such as hippos, horses, camels, dogs etc. are still subjected to such mental and physical cruelty, it is stated.
The Petitioner has contended that animals have the fundamental right to live with dignity and be treated with compassion. It is asserted that barring their performance in circuses would not fall foul of the circus owners' right under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.
The Court’s attention is also brought to a "draft rule" introduced by the Central Government in 2018 to prohibit the exhibition of any animals in circuses etc. However, no further development has taken place on this front till now, it is added.
The Petitioner has thus sought the Court's intervention to put an end to the practice of animal exhibition in circuses and has prayed for the formulation of appropriate schemes for their rehabilitation.
The matter would be heard next on August 14.
Senior Advocate Dayan Krishnan appeared for the Petitioner. The petition has been filed through Advocates Ambuj Agarwal and Ashmita Singh.