People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has moved the Bombay high court, seeking the relocation of Sunder, a 14-year-old elephant currently housed in Jyotiba temple, Kolhapur.
The responsibility of the relocation lies with the Maharashtra Forest Department which has been made a party to the petition.
The forest department failed to act on its own relocation order that was passed last year.
The plight of the young elephant, which was gifted to the temple by the local Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA), was brought to the notice of PETA in July 2012.
An inspection carried out by veterinary officers found it to be underweight. Its body was heavily scarred and there was a hole in it ear through which its mahout controls it with a metal ankus.
Following the inspection, 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.
In October 2012, the Central Zoo Authority visited the temple to carry out an inspection and its report was forwarded to the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF), which ordered the temporary relocation of Sunder until the final order was passed.
Manilal Valliyate, veterinary director of PETA said, “Despite two orders from 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 as we saw in the video. It is evident from the elephant’s behaviour as well as the mahout’s that this is a regular ordeal for him for the six years he has been there.”
PETA spokesperson Sachin Bangera said the elephant’s custody still remains with the temple authorities and it is kept in a shed in the Warananagar area of Kolhapur.
The petition in the high court will come up for hearing on December 10.
In addition to the prayer of Sunder’s relocation, the plea also seeks action, as deemed fit by the court, against the forest officials for their callous approach.