Upkeeping of elephants: Kerala HC appoints court commissioner for inspecting Punnathur Anakkotta

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Kerala High Court | Photo: Mathrubhumi archives

Kochi: The Kerala High Court has appointed a Court Commissioner for the inspection of Punnathur Anakkotta (Guruvayur Punnathurkotta), Thrissur where over 40 elephants are housed.

The move comes in the wake of the petition filed by the elephant conservationist Sangita Iyer.

Punnathur Anakkotta is under Guruvayur Devaswom. It has been alleged by the petitioner that the necessary infrastructure for proper upkeep and protection of the elephants is not given. The petition noted that suggestions made, both by the petitioner as also the Statutory authorities like the Animal Welfare Board of India are totally ignored. The petition also specifically highlights space constraints and the condition of aged elephants.

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The bench of Justice Anil K Narendran and Justice P G Ajithkumar in an order passed on May 25, directed inspection to be carried out by a Commissioner appointed by the Court - Advocate KP Sreekumar, with the assistance of the Assistant Forest Veterinary Officer, Punalur, and the Divisional Forest Officer, Flying Squad, Ernakulam.

The panel will report along with photographs, regarding the care, management, and maintenance of elephants, with reference to the provisions under the Kerala Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules, 2012, especially Rules 3 and 6, and also report on the welfare and veterinary status of captive elephants.

The inspection has been slated for June 6 at 11 am.

Interestingly, the bench observed that "Guruvayur Devaswom Managing Committee is the custodian of the elephants which are entrusted by the devotees with the fervent hope and expectation that they will be looked after well. These elephants are in a way offerings to the deity. Therefore, it is the paramount duty and responsibility of Guruvayur Devaswom Managing Committee to take proper care of the elephants at all costs. If the elephants are not looked after well, necessarily it will amount to cruelty to them. This, in turn, will attract the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960."

The respondents in the case are Guruvayur Devaswom Managing Committee, State of Kerala, Additional Chief Secretary (Kerala Forests And Wildlife Department), Additional Chief Secretary (Revenue (Devaswom) Department), Principal Chief Conservation of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden, Animal Welfare Board of India, Director (Department of Museums And Zoos), Central Zoo Authority of India, Union of India, Devaswom Commissioner (Guruvayur Devaswom), Live Stock Manager (Guruvayur Devaswom).

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