The Madras High Court has ordered the rescue of a 34-year-old elephant that was used by a woman in Madurai for begging and parading in marriage functions. Stating that Malachi, the elephant, had been subjected to ill treatment, the court directed the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden to take possession of the elephant immediately. A Bench of Justices S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad suggested that the Department of Forests may either keep the elephant in a camp or transport her to a zoo, in accordance with law.
The court was hearing the petition of S Muralidharan, an animal lover, who had alleged that Indira, a woman from Madurai was subjecting Malachi to cruelty. He argued that Malachi was originally a gift from a woman named Masan from Rangat, North and Middle Andaman district. She had reportedly given the elephant to Indira to gift it to the Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai. However, Indira never gave it to the temple and employed the elephant for begging and marriage function parades.
The petition had also alleged violations under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act as well as the Tamil Nadu Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules, 2011. In addition to this, a counter affidavit filed by the Chief Wildlife Warden also details five instances when the caretakers of the elephant were fined as much as Rs 25,000 for a number of violations including begging, ill treatment and a drunk mahout handling the elephant.
Indira had denied the allegations, arguing that people automatically came and offered money to the elephant while she was walking on the road; the elephant was not used for any begging purpose, she said. However, the court observed that the excuse cannot be accepted.
“The last incident of imposition of fine of Rs.25,000/- on 01.08.2018, for begging, is after the filing of the instant writ petition. Even taking it for granted, that the elephant is adequately fed and taken care, the manner in which the elephant has been used, cannot be ignored. Disregard to the statutory rules, is apparent on the face of record. In such a scenario, the elephant cannot be permitted to be kept in the custody of the third respondent.” said the court.
However, the judges declined to pass orders on transferring the ownership certificate of the elephant, asking the Chief Wildlife Warden to decide on it.