N Prakash of Maradu in Ernakulam is becoming a famous man on Twitter as this story is being written. He has filed an unusual case at the Kerala High Court and won it too, all in the span of a weekend.
Prakash, who was denied a vehicle pass during the COVID-19 lockdown, approached the court. He wanted to go out to buy Me-O Persian biscuits for his cats and the police were not issuing him a pass. The court, considering only urgent cases in these days, took up Prakashâs petition, spoke to him on video conference, and agreed with him that animal food came under the essential category. He could go out to buy the cat food, the court said, carrying a self-declaration statement and the court order.
A day later, as this reporter calls him, Prakash has just come back home after buying the precious Me-O Persian biscuits. âI had the self-declaration statement and the court order but no one stopped my vehicle. And now I have cat food for another two months,â he says with relief.
The court had asked of him if nothing else could be fed to the cats. No, he had told the court, because the cats were raised in a home full of vegetarians. They could not do without the biscuits.
Mooky, the only white cat among his five feline pets, had come to him eight years ago. She had troubles with her nose and he somehow began calling her Mooky â mooku being Malayalam for nose. The next member of the gang was the black Cuppy. Cuppy had since then generously added to the family: 3 kids, one came much earlier and got called Kunju Cuppy, the others are still kittens that prefer to spend their time idling on Prakashâs lap.
It was last Monday he noticed the cat food depleting. During the first few days of the lockdown, it was permissible to go to the stores with an affidavit stating the purpose, Prakash says.
âBut it became stricter later. When my son got unwell, I couldnât even go to a fruit shop to get him some fruits. The neighbourâs dogs became sick and they couldnât take him to a vet. And then my application for a vehicle pass was rejected twice on Friday and Saturday. Thatâs when I thought I will go to the court,â says Prakash, who retired from the same high court some years ago, after working as private secretary to a judge.
âI must have filed a hundred petitionsâ
Filing petitions is not new for Prakash, who is now a third-semester student of BA LLB at a college in Ernakulam. A couple of years ago he had filed a case against law students in another college for ragging juniors.
âI had just joined the LLB course there. Not that I was ragged but I saw some female students ragging juniors and filed a case against them. When the court suspended them, they went on a strike and classes would stop every morning after 15 minutes. After one and a half months of this, I filed another case. That stopped the strikes but it had angered two teachers who made life difficult for me there and I had to quit the course. I tried joining a B Com course after that but that too didnât work out. So now I am doing the BA LLB again. I have always wanted to be a lawyer and I must have filed at least a hundred petitions so far!â he says.
Prakash shares the newest petition he filed at the court for the cats, which shows the message denying him a vehicle pass. âWe regret to inform that your request for affidavit/Emergency Pass is rejected,â the message says. The second time he got the message, Prakash saved it as âexhibitâ for court.
He quoted the Supreme Court verdict in the case âAnimal Welfare Board of India v. A.Nagaraja (2014)7 SCC 547)â which recognised the right to get food and shelter as a guaranteed right under sections 3 and 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
High Court averts a âCATastropheâ
The High Court, agreeing with Prakashâs plea, noted in its order that âover the last seven decades of working, our democratic Constitution, we have focused, primarily, on the rights available to our citizens. We have conveniently forgotten that the human species is not alone on this planet and that there are other claimants to the bounty that nature has to offer.â
Mooky and one of Cuppy's kittens
The bench headed by AK Jayasankaran Nambiar and Shaji P Chaly also adopted a lighter vein in the end, commenting that âwhile we are happy to have come to the aid of the felines in this case, we are also certain that our directions will help avert a âCATastropheâ in the petitionerâs home.â
Prakash was a little worried over how the court may react. Only days ago, the same judge â Jayasankaran â had slapped a fine of Rs 50,000 on a man who moved the court demanding home delivery of alcohol during the lockdown. Prakash worried if the court would feel it trivial that a petition is moved for pets when even humans are going through difficult times. Fortunately for Prakash, the judges agreed with his sentiments and decided âto respond to the desperate purrs of three felines.â