The Madras High Court has made it clear that using elephants in temples for blessings and taking money amounts to begging and is violative of Tamil Nadu Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules.
Justice D Krishnakumar gave the order while disposing of a petition filed recently by N Sekar.
Sekar was seeking to quash an order passed by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest and Chief Wildlife Warden, Chennai, suspending the transit licence of the elephant â€śSumaâ€ť to Sree Varadharaja Perumal Temple at Kancheepuram, on the complaint that the elephant had been used to collect money from people.
The petitioner was in possession of two Indian female elephants viz. Suma and Rani. One of the elephants, Suma, was sent to Gaja Pooja in Sree Varatharaja Perumal Temple, Kancheepuram between May 17, 2016 and May 30, 2016 after obtaining permission from the above authority. The elephant was transported along with its mahout and a kavady. The owner (petitioner) then received a report from the District Forest Officer (DFO) stating that the elephant was used to collect money from the commuters and a news item regarding the same was also published.
The news item published in Tamil daily Dinakaran said, â€śIt is brought to the notice of this court that today the elephants are largely used for providing entertainment, without engaging them in active work. The elephants are also utilised to bless and receive money in return, which is nothing but begging. This is against Sub Rule(11), Rule 6 of The Tamil Nadu Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules 2011, which states that the elephant should not be taken to streets and other places for begging or any other purposes. Therefore, today, use of elephants for begging would amount to exploitation of the animals.â€ť
â€śIn order to ensure the best possible atmosphere and health for captive elephants, the Tamil Nadu Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules 2011, and the provisions thereof have to be followed scrupulously and the District Forest Officers are directed to ensure that the above rules are strictly implemented in its true letter and spirit.â€ť
On the basis of the report, the DFO who is the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests issued a show cause notice to the petitioner asking him why his licence should not be cancelled. In his reply, the petitioner submitted an apology and also informed the official that the said mahout and kavady have been terminated from service and requested the official to continue providing the transit licence.
Not satisfied with the petitionerâ€™s reply, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests on August 17, 2016 suspended the transit licence and directed him to pay charges. The petitioner then filed the present petition.
After hearing the counsels of the petitioner as well as the government, the Judge in his order asked the petitioner to approach the Principle Chief Conservator of Forests with all the particulars as per the norms and conditions and directed the petitioner to deposit an amount of Rs.24,000 as training fee for the mahouts of the two elephants and Rs.19,000 for the assistant mahout. The judge after going through the rules also directed the authorities to take steps to ensure that the mahout and kavady are paid adequate monthly salary by the owners of the elephants.
The Judge, after referring to various incidents brought to the notice of the Court with regard to violations of Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules, directed the Principle Chief Conservator of Forests to implement the order in letter and spirit and also directed the authorities to circulate the rules in Tamil to all the owners of the elephants.