In a bid to put to rest contradictory reports of whether Sunder the elephant is in musth or not, the Bombay High Court has allowed People for Ethical Treatment to Animals (Peta) to visit Kolhapur after February 15 to inspect and videograph the animal. Peta has opposed the state's claim that Sunder is in musth and he cannot be shifted.
The NGO has alleged that the elephant, which was earlier kept at Jyotibha temple, is being ill-treated by the authorities. It has also alleged that even when there is an order from the Central Zoo Authority to shift him from Kolhapur to Karnataka, it is not being done.
A division bench of Justice VM Kanade and Justice GS Kulkarni directed Peta to visit the site where Sunder is kept and submit a report to the court by March 4.
Peta approached the high court urging for a direction to the authorities asking them to implement their own order and relocate Sunder. Owner of the elephant MLA Vinay Kore has challenged the order and claimed that it was passed ex-parte without giving him a hearing, and thus, it should be quashed and set aside.
Appearing for the state government, advocate JS Saluja had argued that the 14-year-old elephant cannot be moved as he is in an advanced stage of musth. To come to this conclusion, it relied on a two-member panel comprising Dr S Bhatt, a local veterinarian from Kolhapur and Ajay Desai, a wildlife expert.
Arguing for Peta, advocate Pankaj Bafna told the court that it is not correct and the elephant is being kept in private property without due permission. He argued that Peta should be allowed to inspect the elephant and to bring out the correct picture of his condition.
Accordingly, the court allowed the pleading and directed that Peta be allowed to inspect the elephant. Peta moved a petition in the high court through its attorney Dr Manilal Valliyate. It alleged that in July 2012, the plight of the young elephant which was gifted to the temple by Kore, was brought to the notice of Peta.
An inspection by veterinary officials found the elephant to be underweight with scars all over his body and a hole in his ear. These indicate regular abuse inflicted on him by his mahout.
In August 2012, the forest department issued an order to the principal chief conservator of forest, Nagpur, to relocate Sunder to a sanctuary in Karnataka. The expenses were to be borne by Peta.