Elephants belong to forest, not temple: Karnataka High Court

You are causing cruelty to animals. Elephant should be in the company of other animals, added the High Court.
Elephants, Karnataka HC
Elephants, Karnataka HC

The Karnataka recently sought the response of the State government on a plea challenging direction to hand over of an elephant (in a temple) to the forest department.

While hearing the case, the Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice NS Sanjay Gowda also observed that elephants do not belong to temples but rather to forests.

“Elephant belongs in the forest and not in the temple,” the Court remarked.

“It is only for pooja and not for any other purpose,” the counsel appearing for the petitioner responded.

However, the Court said that keeping elephants away from their natural habitat is cruelty.

“You are causing cruelty to animals. Elephant should be in the company of other animals," the Court maintained.

The Court also observed that when temples started maintaining animals, Wildlife Act was not in place.

"You should show compassion to animals now, that's the constitutional mandate,” the Court added.

The petitioners, the founder trustees of the Sri Kalika Durga Parameshwari Temple Vidyaranyapura Tindlu Bangalore had purchased an elephant from Kerala Forest Department dated in 2002, in due compliance with Wildlife Protection Act.

The Principal Secretary to Muzarai Department passed an order on August 10, 2018 exercising the power under Section 43 of the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 1997 declaring the institution as a Muzarai institution.

The petitioners had challenged the validity of the said order before the High court by way of a petition filed in 2018. After hearing the parties, the Court had passed an interim order directing the respondent parties to not take any steps to take possession of the elephant without express permission from the Court.

Subsequently, while the matter was sub-judice, respondents 2 and 3 (Deputy Commissioner of Bangalore Urban District and Assistant Commissioner, Muzarai Kamagarigalu) intimated the forest officials that there was a change of ownership with respect to the Kalika Durga Parameshwari Temple and the elephant was no longer required for any pooja purposes and therefore, it has to be taken back.

Subsequently, respondent no. 5 (Chief Conservator of Forest) passed an order to hand over the elephant to the Forest Department claiming violation of Sections 39(3), 40(1) and (2) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act.

This order was challenged by way of the present petition. The plea said that the order was passed solely on the ground that there was a change in the ownership.

“The order has been passed solely on the ground that there is a change in ownership as contemplated under section 39(3) of the Wild Life Protection Act. But, as on today there is no change in ownership in fact the matter is sub-judice before the secretary to the Muzarai department and therefore the impugned order is not sustainable,” the petition said.

During the hearing, the counsel appearing for the State government apprised the Court that that elephant will be shifted to rehabilitation centre where care and medical treatment will be given to it.

The Court directed the State government to file its statement of objections in three weeks. It also ordered the government to place on record necessary details of treatment given to the elephant.

The matter will be next heard on September 13.

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news