A public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Gauhati High Court on Friday to stop the transportation of four elephants to the Jagannath Temple in Ahmedabad.

Avinava Prayash, a Guwahat-based NGO, represented by its Secretary, Urmi Mala Das and Nandini Baruah, founder of ‘Purr Paws Foundation’, filed the PIL under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, challenging the action of Assam Forest Department to transport four elephants amidst the heat wave in North India.

Assam Forest Department granted permission for transportation of four juvenile elephants, including two females, to Ahmedabad for participating at the Rath Yatra festival to be held there on July 4.

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Senior Advocate Bhaskar Dev Konwar will appear for the petitioners and permission has been granted to list the PIL for hearing on June 24. The case has been registered as PIL No.39/2019.

The Petitioners have contended that the decision of the Assam Forest Department is in violation of the relevant provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and relevant orders of the Supreme Court in this regard.

Transporting the elephants in railway wagons in the prevailing heat-wave conditions in North India, would subject the animals to extreme stress, pain and cruelty and they may not survive the long journey of 3,106 kms, the petition said.

The petitioners said it appears that two of the four elephants were not captive born, and were caught from the wild and domesticated.

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They said micro-chips on the two elephants were implanted in June 15 and ownership certificates for the two elephants have also been issued specially to facilitate the process of their transportation to Ahmedabad.

The Indian Elephant is a Schedule-I animal under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and Section 9 of the Act prohibit capture of elephants from the wild.

The petitioners have also contended in the PIL that 53 elephants from Assam which were given on lease to outside the states have not been returned back.

They also mentioned about a big elephant smuggling racket in regard from Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

Meanwhile, Sangita Iyer, an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI), has also filed an instant writ-petition at the Gauhati High Court with the prayer to immediately stop the transportation of the four juvenile elephants from Assam to the Jagannath Temple of Ahmedabad.

The petitioner, a permanent resident of Toronto in Canada, has requested the Gauhati High Court to stop the transportation of the elephants till the weather is conducive and the legal status of the two elephants, allegedly captured from the wild, are established.

Iyer, a multiple award-winning nature and wildlife journalist and filmmaker, said it is going to be a grueling 96-hour journey for the four elephants under extreme heat.

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Anirban Roy

Anirban Roy is Editor-in-Chief of Northeast Now. He can be reached at: editor@nenow.in

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