SC: Violent means to ward off wild animals is unconstitutional3 min read

-Akshay Gurnani

The plea, filed in the wake of an elephant’s in Kerala after it fell prey to explosives meant to ward off wild animals, relies on Indian religious texts to signify the importance of elephants in India.

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices Subhash Reddy and AS Bopanna has issued notice to the Centre and 13 other states on a petition seeking to declare the practice of using barbaric means and explosives to ward off wild animals as unconstitutional, illegal and violative of Articles 14, and 21 of the Constitution (Shubham Awasthi vs Union of India).

The petition filed by Subham Awasthi through Advocate Vivek Narayan Sharma sought a direction to the Central and State governments for necessary amendments in the Prevention of Cruelty against Animals Act, 1960 to increase punishments for causing cruelty against animals.

The plea has been filed in the wake of the death of an elephant in Kerala that fell prey to explosives reportedly meant to ward off wild animals. It urges the court to fill the vacancies in forest forces for effective management and for the propagation of necessary awareness pertaining to human-animal conflicts.

The petition relies on Vedas and Indian religious texts to signify the importance

of elephants and how they are being treated in contemporary India.
“The cruelty with which elephants are treated nowadays is a far cry from what it was like in ancient India where they had pride of place. No army could be imagined without elephants leading the charge. Celebrated Indian philosopher and royal advisor Chanakya who authored Arthashastra, the ancient Indian political treatise, clearly laid down rules for the king to protect elephants.” reads the plea.

The petition has also sought the issuance of directions to the Central/ State Governments to update their forest forces with modern equipment and necessary literature regarding animal welfare.

On May 27, a pregnant elephant succumbed to injuries reportedly caused by the eating a pineapple filled with crackers which were left by the local persons to ward off wild animals straying into their lands. It was again reported that this was not an isolated incident as another Elephant had died due to similar circumstances in Kerala.

The petition filed against Union of India and 13 other states urges the court that Agricultural and Forest Departments of the States need to come up with a unified Standard Operating Procedure which considers the Wildlife Protection Act and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act as its basic tenet and modulates rules and regulations pertaining to avoiding such incidents in the future.

The petition has also sought a direction to the Union of India to issue guidelines to all States for an animal census in States to understand the need of the wildlife and take appropriate measures to protect them
The petition further seeks a direction to the Centre and States to issue guidelines for the tracking of elephants in order to save them from the threat of extinction and cruelty against them.

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