Explained| How Tripura High Court’s order led to building legal regime for protection of captive animals/seized wild animals

Tripura High Court

Tripura High Court: The present Public Interest Litigation (‘PIL’) was filed by an animal right activist seeking appropriate action by the State, inter alia, to take custody of an abused elephant along with her calf/calves from their owner. The Division Bench of Aparesh Kumar Singh, CJ., and Arindham Lodh, J., applauded State Government after being satisfied that all necessary action had been taken to rehabilitate the unprotected animals in question.


After a video of an elephant, Pratima being subject to abuse and cruelty by her owner went viral on Facebook, the petitioner filed a complaint to the Sub-Divisional Forest Officer (‘SDFO’) and the State Animal Welfare Board to take legal action against the owner and to confiscate the animals for rehabilitation.

The elephant, who was also pregnant and had an unweaned calf, had injuries, wounds, and abscess all over her body which had been left untreated for a long time, including both her hind legs being bent, a huge lump on her front left leg, and a big wound on her abdomen area. On further enquiry, it was found that the mahout (her owner) had bred her illegally and kept her without license.

Due to the inaction of the authorities concerned, the petitioner had approached the High Court in a PIL.

Constitution of a High-Power Committee

In its earlier order in Sudipa Nath v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine Tri 691, the High Court constituted a High-Powered Committee (‘the Committee’), to look into the matter related to transfer/rehabilitation of captive elephants The Committee is to be chaired by Justice Deepak Verma (former Judge of the Supreme Court) with members from the Director General of Forests (Union of India), Head of Project Elephant Division (MoEF), Member Secretary (Central Zoo Authority of India), Chief Wildlife Warden (State of Tripura) for Elephants and Chief Wildlife Warden (State of Gujarat).

Later on, the jurisdiction and scope of the High Powered Committee was extended by the Supreme Court in Muruly M.S. v. State of Karnataka, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 224, to throughout the country withthe modification that Chief Wildlife Warden(s) of the State(s) to which the issue relates would be co-opted as Members of the said Committee in place of the Chief Wild Life Wardens of Tripura and Gujarat, throughout the territory of India leaving it open to the Committee to conduct necessary checks and to undertake fact finding exercise in any pending or future complaint in this regard.

The Supreme Court had issued the following directions with respect to functioning of the Committee:

  • All complaints regarding welfare, care and rehabilitation of wild animals including captive elephants would be forwarded to the Committee for consideration and recommending appropriate action.

  • All State and Central authorities were directed to forthwith report seizure of wild animals or abandonment of captive wild animals to the Committee.

  • The Committee was given liberty to recommend transfer of ownership of captive animals or of seized wild animals to any willing rescue centre or zoo for their immediate welfare, care and rehabilitation.

Findings and Decision

The Court noted the actions taken by the State in the matter, including that custody of the elephant and her calf has been taken by the officials and a show cause notice was also issued upon the owner as to why action should not be taken against him under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and also under the Wildlife Protection Act.

The treatment of the elephants was started as soon as the information reached the authorities and daily status was monitored by the staffs at field. In addition, a team of experts from VANTARA from Jamnagar, Gujarat also joined the treatment process and recommended shifting the elephant to advanced facility for better treatment.

Lastly, noting that the Committee had already taken cognizance of the matter and further the elephant ‘Pratima’ and her calf ‘Maniklal’ are being transported to the Radhe Krishna Temple Elephant Welfare Trust at Jamnagar, the Court disposed of the instant PIL while granting liberty to the petitioner to pursue her complaint with the Committee.

[Paramita Sen v. The State of Tripura, 2024 SCC OnLine Tri 404, order dated 01-05-2024]

Advocates who appeared in this case:

For the Petitioner: Paramita Sen, Petitioner in person

For the Respondents: Kohinoor N. Bhattacharyya, Government Advocate

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