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‘Elephants should not be used for begging in temples’

The use of elephants in temples for blessing people and receiving money in return is equivalent to begging, the Madras High Court has held.

‘Elephants should not be used for begging in temples’
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Justice D Krishnakumar while observing that using elephants to beg would amount to exploitation and thereby subject them to uncharacteristic behaviours, said, “Elephants utilised to bless and receive money in return is nothing but begging.” “This is against the Sub Rule (11) rule 6 of The Tamil Nadu Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules 2011 (TNCER) which states that elephants should not be taken to streets and other places for begging or any other mean purposes,” the judge held.

Justice Krishnakumar also directed the District Forest Officers to ensure that the rules meant for management and maintenance of elephants are strictly implemented in its true letter and spirit. 

The petitioner N Sekar, who owns two Indian female elephants called Suma and Rani, was transporting them for poojas and religious festivals in the state after obtaining due permission from the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) as per provisions available under TNCER.

Based on one such permission, elephant Suma was sent for Gaja Pooja at Lord Varatharaja Perumal Temple, in Kancheepuram in May 2016. But the elephant, which was sent with a ‘mahout’ and a ‘cavady’ was reportedly used for blessing devotees receiving money in return. This aspect was reported in the media, based on which the DFO sent a report. Following this, the PCCF issued a show cause notice to the petitioner seeking to know as to why the transit licence should not be cancelled. In response, the petitioner submitted an apology and informed that the said ‘mahout’ and ‘cavady’ have been terminated from service. 

Based on this, he sought for continuation of the transit license. But, the PCCF on August 17, suspended the transit license and directed him to pay charges for training the ‘mahout’ and ‘cavady.’ Challenging the termination, the petitioner approached the court. However, the judge directed the authorities to take steps to ensure that the ‘mahouts’ and ‘cavadys’ are paid adequately by the elephant owners.

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