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PIL challenges elephant transfer to Gujarat
Staff Reporter
 GUWAHATI, June 21 - A PIL has been filed in the Gauhati High Court challenging the State government’s decision to transport four elephants by railway wagons from Tinsukia to Ahmedabad in Gujarat for participating in the annual Rath Yatra festival to be held there on July 4.

The petition has been filed by ‘Avinava Prayash’, a Guwahati-based NGO, represented by its secretary Urmi Mala Das and Nandini Baruah, a fashion designer who runs ‘Purr Paws Foundation’ for street animals in Guwahati.

Their counsel, senior advocate Bhaskar Dev Konwar, said the PIL is likely to be listed on Monday.

There are nine respondents in the case, including the Assam government and the Railways.

The petitioners have contended that the decision of the State government is in violation of the relevant provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and relevant orders of the Supreme Court in this regard. Moreover, dispatch of the elephants in railway wagons in the prevailing heat-wave conditions in north Indian States, would subject the animals to extreme stress, pain and cruelty and they may not survive the long journey of 3,106 km, which would take several days to cover.

The four elephants belong to private owners. It appears that two of the four elephants were not captive born but were caught from the wild and domesticated. Microchips on the two elephants were implanted in June 2015 and ownership certificates for the two elephants have also been issued specially to facilitate the process of their transportation to Ahmedabad, in the State of Gujarat, the petitioners said.

The ‘Indian Elephant’ is a Schedule-I animal under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, and Section 9 of the Act prohibits capture of elephants from the wild. Capturing of wild elephants is permitted only under very limited circumstances as provided in Section 11 and 12 of the Act.

The elephants in question are being transferred to Ahmedabad on a six-month lease. Section 43(1) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, lays down that no person having in his control and possession a captive animal, in respect of which he has a certificate of ownership, shall transfer such captive animal by any mode of consideration of commercial nature. Therefore, if the elephants in question are being transferred to Ahmedabad by way of lease, and if there is any money or other consideration involved in the transfer, it would be in violation of Section 43 of the Act.

Gaurav writes to Javadekar: NEW DELHI, June 21 - Lok Sabha MP Gaurav Gogoi has urged the Centre to instruct the Assam government to withdraw its order of transporting four elephants from Tinsukia to Ahmedabad, as soon as possible.

In a letter to Union Environment and Forest Minister Prakash Javadekar, Gogoi said that the State government planned to transport the elephants for the Rath Yatra in Ahmedabad.

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