GUWAHATI, June 24 - Hearing a PIL filed by Avinava Prayash challenging the ferrying of four elephants to Gujarat, the Gauhati High Court today sought clarification from the Centre regarding an interim order passed by the Supreme Court prohibiting transfer of elephants.
In that 2016 order in a case in which the Assam government is also a party, the SC had directed that “persons who are in possession of elephants shall not transfer the elephants outside the State nor shall they part with the elephants by way of transfer in any manner”.
An HC division bench comprising Chief Justice (Acting) Arup Kumar Goswami and Justice Manish Choudhury also sought clarification from the State Govt whether the State’s Chief Wildlife Warden took note of the SC order while ordering transportation of the elephants.
The Standing Counsel of Railway produced an instruction from the railway authorities wherein a view has been taken that the interim order of the SC is in operation and therefore clarification was sought from the State forest department.
Dilip Mazumdar, additional advocate general, Assam, submitted before the High Court that steps have been taken for transportation of the elephants from Assam to Gujarat in air-conditioned wagons with all facilities according to guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.
According to the order of Chief Wildlife Warden Ranjana Gupta, after receipt of an NOC from Gujarat’s Chief Wildlife Warden, permission was granted to take the elephants there for six months.
The Conservator of Forests, Eastern Region, was accordingly directed to issue a transit pass after physical verification of the elephants and upon receipt of the required health certificate issued not more than 12 hours before the departure of the elephants by government veterinary doctors certifying that the elephants were fit to travel by road or rail and did not show any sign of infectious disease.
Appearing for the petitioners, counsel Bhaskar Dev Konwar drew the attention of the HC to various provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and the interim order of the SC. The basic contention urged before the HC was that the elephants have to face adverse weather conditions in Gujarat and the gruelling train journey.
The hearing remained inconclusive and will resume on Tuesday.