The Bombay High Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition seeking permission to capture live cobras from forests during the forthcoming Nagpanchmi festival for worshipping the snakes, observing it was against the provisions of Wildlife Protection Act.
The plea to capture snakes from the forests was rejected by a bench of Justices Abhay Oka and AS Chandurkar which said such practice was not an essential requirement in Hindu religion.
The bench opined that instead of capturing live cobras for worship, their idols or photographs should be used by the devotees during the Nagpanchmai festival, which is celebrated every year in August.
The petition was filed by "Battis-Shirale Gram Sabha" of Sangli district. Villagers of Battis-Shirale catch live cobras from the forests during Nagpanchmi and worship the reptiles before leaving them back in their natural habitat.
The court also ordered formation of a committee to create an awareness among the people about protecting wildlife and framing a policy on the issue. The Collector of Sangli and Superintendent of Police shall be members of the committee, which has been asked to submit a report by August 31.
Counsel for Battis-Shirale Gram Sabha, J Shekhar, argued that capturing snakes is a socio-religious ceremony under the Hindu law. Therefore, Wildlife Protection Act interfered with articles 25 and 26 of the Indian Constitution which gives right to citizens to practice religion, activities and ceremony.
However, the High Court said that capturing live snakes and subsequently releasing them would cause them harm and was against the law. Under the Constitution, the citizens were duty bound to protect creatures, the bench observed.