Instances of cruelty to animals frequent, take action: HC

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Kochi, July 2 (PTI): The Kerala High Court on Friday termed as frighteningly frequent instances of cruelty to animals being reported in the media and said theState must take affirmative action to alleviate their misery.

The observation by a Bench of Justices A K Jayasankaran Nambiar and Gopinath P came while hearing a PIL initiated by it on its own in the wake of the recent gruesome killing of a canine -- named Bruno -- which was tied up and beaten to death by some people on Adimalathura beach on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram.

The Bench directed that the case be renamed as 'In Re: Bruno as a fitting tribute to the hapless dog that succumbed to acts of human cruelty.' It said that it has initiated the PILto monitor State action in reported instances of cruelty to animals and to take stock of the measures adopted by the government to implement the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

'Frighteningly frequent have been the instances of cruelty to animals reported in the media in the last couple of years that we believe that the State must now resort to affirmative action to alleviate their misery,' the Bench said.

It also issued notice to the Centre, Kerala government and various authorities, including the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), seeking their responses to the petition initiated by the court.

The Bench directed the Kerala State Animal Welfare Board to file a report, before the next date of hearing of the matter, on the action taken by it on the complaint by the dead canine's owner.

It requested the Director General of Prosecution also 'to bestow his personal attention in the matter and ensure that the wheels of the criminal justice system are set in motion to bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice.' A direction was also issued to AWBI to immediately draw up a feasible action plan for creating awareness campaigns 'to educate and sensitise our citizenry to the rights of animals and the corresponding duties and obligations required of the citizenry.' 'We believe that immediate steps in this regard are required to initiate a change in the attitude of our citizenry to the welfare of animals so that gruesome incidents, such as those reported in the media in recent times do not recur in future,' the court said and directed AWBI to file its report within a month.

The Bench said it was also of the view that the veterinary hospitals and allied infrastructural facilities in Kerala 'are in dire need of much needed upgradation, and the State government must take steps to improve these facilities.' 'The State government must also issue directions to the local self-government institutions ie. the Corporations, municipalities and panchayats in the State to comply with their respective statutory obligations as regards provision of animal shelters, dog pounds and cattle sheds, among others, and further ensure that there is no delay occasioned in such compliance on account of insufficiency of funds,' the court directed.

During the hearing, the court was told that the State animal welfare board was created pursuant to a 2008 Supreme Court order and it only had a tenure of three years which was not extended.

Taking note of the submission on behalf of a former member of the animal welfare board, the court asked Additional Advocate General Asok M Cherian to inform it, by July 13, about the steps taken by the Kerala government to reconstitute, and render functional, the State Animal Welfare Board.

The State government was also directed to 'explore the possibility of promoting and holding animal adoption camps throughout the State at periodic intervals of not less than thrice a year, where persons can be encouraged to adopt animals that have been abandoned by their owners, and are left to wander in the streets in search of food and shelter'.

It further directed the Kerala government to explore the possibility of entrusting the district administrations across the State with the power to enquire into complaints of infringement of animal rights and cruelty to animals, as also instances where persons are prevented from keeping pets of their choice in their residential apartments.

The Bench said that AWBI has already issued instructions recognising the right of individuals to keep pets in residential apartments, and discouraging the insertion of clauses in the by-laws of residential apartment associations that prohibit that keeping of pets by the residents of such apartment complexes.

The court also appointed two lawyers -- senior advocate S Ramesh Babu and advocate T C Suresh Menon -- as amici curiae to assist it in the matter by identifying other issues of concern.

With these directions, the Bench listed the matter for hearing on July 13.

While issuing the directions, the Bench made it clear that it was not embarking on a policy-making exercise and was only endeavouring to alert the State government 'to the circumstances in which, and the extent to which, it will be required to act in discharge of its constitutional and statutory obligations.' PTI CORR HMP NVG NVG

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