Justice GR Swaminathan of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court ordered that no private individual or religious institution should newly acquire elephants.
He passed the the order in a case filed by the Forest Department, regarding a 60-year old female elephant, Lalitha that had suffered injuries under the care of a private owner.
Justice Swaminathan had visited the elephant recently along with animal rights activists.
The elephant was taken into custody by the Department after it collapsed on 1 January 2023, while being taken to a temple function. It added that the owner Sheik Mohamed had not treated the elephant properly after it first fell down on 9 December 2022 in Rajapalayam.
He ordered that after treatment, the elephant should be shifted to the Government Elephant Rehabilitation Camp.
He directed the Secretary of the Environment and Forest Department to inspect all elephants in the state, whether owned by private individuals or temples.
Further, he said that "The time has now come to take a call if all such elephants now in captivity (both temples and privately owned) should be shifted to Government Rehabilitation Camps. The Secretary to Government, Environment and Forest Department may coordinate with the Secretary to Government, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HRCE) Department in this regard."
In another observation, Justice Swaminathan said that the lack of freedom, separation from natural family, ill-treatment by mahouts, poor supply of food, concrete flooring and tin roofing had made their lives hell and caused them to turn violent at times.
The judgement comes a few days after American animal rights organisation, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had gifted a 'mechanical elephant' to a temple in Kerala for conducting rituals.
PETA has been accused by temple activists and devotees of causing the death of a 32-year old female elephant Lakshmi which belonged to the Manakula Vinayakar Temple in Pondicherry.
S Rajesh is Staff Writer at Swarajya.
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