It said what a two-member panel comprising Dr S Bhatt, a local veterinarian doctor from Kolhapur, and Ajay Desai, a wildlife expert, concluded after examining the elephant on January 18.
Advocate JS Saluja filed an affidavit in the high court saying: “As per court directions, we filed our affidavit and said Sunder cannot be moved as it is musth and any attempt to relocate it would prove dangerous to handlers.”
He added: “There is no iota of evidence that the elephant is being tortured.’
He denied all allegations made by People for Ethical Treatment to Animal (PETA) and submitted photographs showing that the elephant was fit. PETA, in its rejoinder, argued: “An expert panel which examined the elephant on December 23, 2013, opined that it was not musth and neither did it show signs of pre-musth condition.”
PETA has moved a petition in the Bombay high court through its attorney Dr Manilal Valliyate. In July 2012, the plight of the elephant, which was gifted to the temple by a local Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Vinay 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 to use the ankus. These indicate regular abuse inflicted on him by his mahout.
In August 2012, forest department issued an order to the principal chief conservator of forest, Nagpur, to relocate Sunder to a sanctuary in Karnataka. The expense was to be borne by PETA.
A division bench of Justice VM Kanade and Justice GS Kulkarni were told that Kore had challenged the government’s order to shift the elephant from Kolhapur to Karnataka by filing a writ petition. Accordingly, the court clubbed the two petitions and posted the hearing to January 28.