HC asks AWBI, CZA to respond to PETA plea for taking action against circuses for violations

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New Delhi, Jan 29 (PTI) The Delhi High Court Friday sought response of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) on a plea by NGO People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) seeking to issue show cause notices to several circuses and cancel their registration certificates due to alleged violations committed by them.

A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli issued notices to AWBI and CZA on the application and asked them to file detailed replies within three weeks, while fixing the matter for further hearing on February 25.

Advocate Aman Hingorani, representing PETA, submitted that as per AWBI only six circuses are functional now, however, show cause notices have been issued to only two of them.

To this, Central government standing counsel Rajesh Gogna, representing AWBI and CZA, said show cause notices have been issued to all the six circuses and action is being taken against them and in two weeks he shall be in a position to inform the court about the action taken by the board.

The application was filed in a pending petition by PETA for protection of animals in circuses stranded across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Another PIL filed by Federation of Indian Animals Protection Organisation (FIAPO) seeking similar relief is also pending in the court.

The fresh application said, “there is an immediate need to seize and rescue the performing animals with the six functional circuses and to permanently rehabilitate them to sanctuaries or rehabilitation centres as the case may be”.

It said that in view of the blatant violations of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, PARR (Performing Animals (Registration) Rules) and other terms and conditions of PARC, by the six functional circuses, AWBI is legally obliged to issue show cause notices to the remaining circuses and cancel the performing animal registration certificates (PARC) issued to them.

The plea alleged that circuses were using unregistered animals and treating them with cruelty and added that during the physical inspections, it was found that the existing animals in the circuses were in stark contradiction to the ones registered with them.

It also urged the court for ordering immediate inspection of the circuses and the status of animals from the circuses which have been closed down.

The high court had earlier termed as 'serious' and 'shocking' that there was a huge gap in the number of animals found by the AWBI, as against those registered with it, when it inspected circuses across the country and had asked it and the CZA to find out what happened to the missing animals.

The court was informed by FIAPO that according to the survey report filed by AWBI, around 740 circus animals were registered with it, but in the survey only 28 were found.

PETA India has claimed in its plea that due to the COVID-19 outbreak and resultant lockdown, circuses are finding it difficult to feed the animals which are at various stages of starvation.

It has sought a direction to the Centre to immediately notify the Performing Animals (Registration) Amendment Rules of 2018 which expressly prohibit training and exhibition of performing animals in circuses and 'mobile entertainment facilities'.

FIAPO, which is a group of 100 organisations and works towards the protection of animal rights for over a decade, has challenged the constitutional validity of sections 21 to 27 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act so far as they permit exhibition and training of animals in relation to circus acts. PTI SKV SKV RKS RKS