The Bombay high court on Tuesday directed the chief forest officer, wildlife (Kolhapur), to immediately take steps to relocate Sunder, a 14-year-old elephant currently housed in Kolhapur’s Jyotiba temple, and file a compliance report before the court by December 23.
A division bench of justices VM Kanade and MS Sonak gave this direction while hearing a petition filed by Dr Manilal Valliyate on behalf of People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
The court also directed the state government to file a report listing the steps it had taken to rescue and relocate the elephant while pending the hearing of the petition. The court, while passing the direction, observed, “Prima facie (on first appearance), the allegations made in the petition are said to be true from the pictures supported the claim.”
The court thus directed the authorities to implement the order passed by the principal secretary, Revenue and Forest Department, directing the authority concerned to relocate Sunder.
In July 2012, the plight of the young elephant — which was gifted to the temple by a local MLA — came to the notice of PETA. In an inspection carried out by veterinary officers, the elephant was found to be underweight. Moreover, he had scars all over his body and a hole in his ear for the use of a metal ankus (a hooked stick used for goading elephants) that indicated regular abuse inflicted on him by his mahout.
Following the inspection, in August 2012, the forest department issued an order to the principal chief conservator of forests, Nagpur, to relocate Sunder to a sanctuary in Karnataka, the expense for which PETA would bear.
In his petition, Valliyate said, “Despite two orders from the Central and state authorities, the local forest department has not initiated any action even after a year. Sunder is still in that dark shed, being abused by his immature mahout.”