The Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra government to move elephant Sunder to the Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation Centre (WRRC) near Bangalore.
A division bench of judges VM Kanade and AK Menon issued this direction on Monday, while rejecting a petition by Vinay Kore, member of the state legislative assembly, challenging an August 2012 order of the forest department to relocate the animal to a sanctuary.
WRRC, located on the northernmost tip of Bannerghatta National Park, houses and treats displaced, injured and orphaned wildlife rescued in urban areas.
Kore had gifted Sunder, who was brought from Assam, to the Jyotiba temple trust in Kolhapur. But evidence of ill-treatment to the elephant sparked a campaign for its release and the temple returned the animal to Kore last year.
The high court did not specify the schedule for relocating the animal, but suggested to the government to complete the process before the monsoon. "The court has told us to move the elephant at the earliest, so we will do the needful after taking into consideration Sunder's Musth condition," said JS Saluja, advocate representing the state. (Musth is a periodic condition of bull elephants that is characterized by aggressive behaviour and usually connected with the mating season.)
Sunder is currently on the premises of the Warna Shahkhari Dudh Utpadhan Sahakari Society in Kolhapur.
"Sunder was known to have suffered physical abuse and being chained, loneliness and misery for almost a decade. We are grateful to the court order for his release," said Dr Manilal Valliyate, director of veterinary affairs with the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
In July 2012, PETA was permitted by the court to examine Sunder and had reported that the animal was being deprived of its natural habitat.
The examination revealed that the elephant was underweight, had scars all over the body and a hole in the ear that was used for a metal ankus (hook) to control the animal and indications of regular abuse inflicted by the mahout.
The organisation proposed that the elephant be moved to the Wildlife SOS in Mathura and that it would bear the expenses.
Valliyate had petitioned the court saying that "despite two orders from the central and state authorities, the forest department had not initiated any action even after a year. Sunder is still in that dark shed, being abused by his immature mahout," and prayed for the implementation of the order for the relocation of the animal.