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Owner of vehicle liable to maintain animals seized from vehicle under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act: Bombay High Court

The Court said that the petitioner being merely the owner of the vehicle, cannot be a ground to be absolved of the responsibility to pay the amount towards maintenance and health inspection of animals.

The Bombay High Court recently ruled that the owner of a vehicle from which animals were seized under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, is liable for the cost of transport, treatment and care of the animals until conclusion of trial [Altaf Babru Shaikh vs State of Maharashtra and Anr.]

Justice Prakash D Naik said that the petitioner being merely the owner of the vehicle, cannot be a ground to be absolved of the responsibility to pay the amount towards maintenance and health inspection of animals in accordance with Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules.

"Although the petitioner is the owner of the vehicle, he cannot be absolved of his responsibility to pay the amount towards maintenance and health inspection of animals in accordance with rules. As stated above the petitioner can be directed to pay the amount towards maintenance, health inspection and future amount of Rs.200/- per day per animal being the owner of the vehicle," the Court said.

The animals and the vehicle were seized pursuant to a First Information Report (FIR) registered under Section 11 of Maharashtra Protection of Animals Act, and Section 192-A of Motor Vehicles Act alleging that 23 buffaloes were being transported illegally to Mumbai.

The police rescued the buffaloes and handed over their custody to a gaushala for preservation and care.

The petitioner moved the High Court challenging an order directing him to pay jointly with other accused ₹96,625 towards maintenance and health inspection of the animals until May 13, 2022 and an amount of ₹200 per day per animal till the conclusion of trial.

The order was passed by a Magistrate Court and then upheld by a Sessions Court.

Advocate Atharva Dandekar for the petitioner contended that the Magistrate's order directing him to pay the amount of maintenance with the other persons was illegal.

He argued that since the vehicle was returned to him and he was not involved in the sale or transport of the animals, he could not be compelled to maintain them.

Additional Public Prosecutor AR Patil for the State contended that there was no illegality in the order passed by the Magistrate and the Sessions Court as the truck was intercepted and was found to be carrying the transport illegally and in a cruel manner.

He further highlighted that Rule 5 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules provides that in cases of offences relating to transport of animals, the vehicle owner, consignor, consignee, transporter, agents and any other parties involved shall be jointly and severally liable for the cost of transport, treatment and care of animals.

He placed reliance on a circular dated July 2, 2019 issued by Maharashtra Animal Welfare Board with regard to the maintenance cost of animals.

The High Court recorded that the Sessions Judge had referred to Rule 5 and had rightly observed that the petitioner, being owner of the truck, was jointly and severally liable for the cost of transport, treatment and care of animals.

Therefore, it found no merit in the petitioner's contentions and dismissed the petition.

[Read Order]

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