Assam: NGO files PIL against transfer of 4 Elephants from Assam to Gujrat on lease

A Guwahati based NGO has filed a PIL in Gauhati High Court against the forest department’s decision for transportation of 4 elephants from Assam to Gujrat on lease basis.


 Guwahati

‘Avinava Prayash’ an NGO of Guwahati, represented by its Secretary, Smt. Urmi Mala Das ( an Animal Rights Activist, freelance writer and blogger) and Smt. Nandini Baruah(Fashion Designer and runs ‘Purr Paws Foundation’ for street animals at Guwahati) have filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on 21.06.2019 (Friday), under Article 226 of the Constitution of India before the Gauhati High Court challenging the action of the Government of Assam, in the Forest Department, which has taken a decision to transfer on lease 4(four)elephants, including two females, and to transport them by railway wagons from Tinsukia in Upper Assam to Ahmedabad in Gujarat for participating and for adding pomp to the Annual Rath Yatra festival to be held there on 4th July, 2019.

An order to this effect has been issued by the Chief Wild Life Warden & Principal Chief Conservator of Forests(Wild Life), Assam. The order for dispatching the elephants was signed by the Chief Wild Life Warden & Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wild Life), Assam, and the Conservator of Forests,(Eastern Assam Circle), Jorhat is looking after the entire process of transporting the elephants. Senior Advocate Mr. Bhaskar Dev Konwar is appearing for the petitioners and permission have been granted to list the PIL on Monday next, i.e. 24.06.2019. The PIL is registered as PIL No.39/2019 { Avinava Prayash & 2 Others. – Versus – The State Of Assam & 9 Others.}

The Petitioners have contended that the decision of the State Government is in violation of the relevant provisions of the Wild Life(Protection) Act, 1972 and relevant orders of the Supreme Court in this regard. Moreover, dispatch of the elephants in railway wagons in the prevailing heat-wave conditions in North Indian States, would subject the animals to extreme stress, pain and cruelty and they may not survive the long journey of 3106 kms., which would take several days to traverse.

Talking to  NorthEast India24.com , Advocate Bhaskar  informed that ” The four elephants belong to private owners. It appears that two of the said four elephants were not captive born but were caught from the wild and domesticated. Micro-chips on the two elephants were implanted in June 2015 and ownership certificates for the said two elephants have also been issued specially to facilitate the process of their transportation to Ahmedabad, in the State of Gujarat.

The ‘Indian Elephant’ is a Schedule-I animal under the Wild Life (Protection)Act, 1972, and Section 9 of the Act prohibit capture of elephants from the wild. Capturing of wild elephants is permitted only under very limited circumstances as provided in Section 11 and 12 of the Act, Advocate said.

Further Bhasakr said that “The elephants in question are being transferred to Ahmedabad in Gujarat on a six-months’ lease. Section 43(1) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, lays down that no person having in his control and possession a captive animal, in respect of which he has a certificate of ownership, shall transfer such captive animal by any mode of consideration of Commercial Nature. Therefore, if the elephants in question are being transferred to Ahmedabad in Gujarat by way of lease, and if there is any money or other consideration involved in the transfer, it would be in violation of the said section 43 of the Act”.

The Supreme Court of India in the case of Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre & Others -Vs- Union of India & Ors., by its order dated 4th May 2016 has already directed that “while we are of the view that the said issues raised shall be dealt with at the stage of final hearing, we think it apt to direct that the State Government shall not issue any ownership certificate to any of the person in possession of elephants. That apart, the persons who are in possession of elephants shall not transfer the elephants outside the Sate nor shall they part with the elephants by way of transfer in any manner. If any ownership certificate has been issued in the meantime the same shall be withdrawn subject to the final verdict of this Court.” The said matter is still pending before the Supreme Court for Hearing, informed Advocate Bhaskar.

Meanwhile the petitioners have also contended in the PIL that 53 elephants from Assam who have been given on lease to outside States have not been returned back. A big black marketing racket in regard to transportation of elelphants from Assam and Arunachal Pradesh has grown which have come to light. The lease period was for six months, nine months and one Year respectively, but, even after expiry the elephants were not transported back, etc.

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