Passing interim directions on a plea relating to mistreatment of elephants in private captivity and the concept of mahout for life followed in the breach, the first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice PD Audikesavalu said, “The State should ensure that no further elephant is taken into captivity except for the purpose of treatment of such elephants if found unable to support itself in the wild. No private person may capture any elephant or keep the same except those already existing.”
The hearing witnessed arguments and counters over alleged discrepancies in the number of elephants in temples and private custody in Tamil Nadu as submitted by the State Forest Department to the court on Friday and to the Union government two years ago.
Appearing for the State, C Harsha Raj submitted that there were 32 elephants in temples in the State and 31 elephants privately held. In addition, there were 64 elephants in the custody of the Forest Department.
However, Elsa Foundation, the animal rights organisation that was permitted to intervene in the present proceedings by the High Court, submitted that the State government had furnished details of 86 captive elephants to the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2019, excluding the elephants with the Forest Department.
Recording that the figures indicated in court would reveal that at least 23 elephants were no longer available between 2019 and now, the bench directed the State government to produce the statements, if any, furnished to the Ministry of Environment and Forests over the last five years regarding the number of elephants and other material connected to elephants.
Based on further time sought by the official respondents to collate and furnish the details of all the elephants in captivity as per its previous order on September 3, the bench adjourned the case to October 21.