The Supreme Court of India on Friday issued notice to the Central Government, State of Kerala and several other states on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by advocate Shubham Awasthi seeking direction to declare ‘barbaric’ practices to ward off wild animals as illegal and unconstitutional. A three-judge bench of Chief Justice Of India (CJI) S A Bobde and Justices R. Subhash Reddy and A.S. Bopanna has issued the notice. The plea also sought framing of guidelines for the creation of Standard Operating Procedures to tackle such incidents and fulfilling the vacancies in Forest Forces across the States.
The petitioner highlighted a recent incident of the alleged killing of a pregnant elephant allegedly caused by the eating of a pineapple filled with firecrackers which were left by the Villagers/Farmers/Local Men to ward off wild animals straying into the area which had their fields/property. “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”, the petitioner said.
According to Awasthi, it is quite a common practice to scare off wild animals such as wild boars and nilgais, by using food filled with crackers. The damage caused by these animals, at times, is severe and there happens to be no means to stop it.
It is alleged that the Forest Department across India has failed in this endeavor to protect the wildlife and humankind due to a severe shortage of staff and lack of scientific measures being used by the general populace.
Meager punishments, according to the petitioner, under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, have led to widespread violations of the Act with impunity. Such Acts have led to defeating the purpose of the Act and has made it redundant in modern times.
The petitioner, therefore, prayed for enhancing the imprisonment under the Act from six months to two years.