Transportation Of Cattle In Violation Of Rules- Supreme Court Sets Aside HC's Judgment Granting Custody To Owners Instead Of Gaushala
The Supreme Court has set aside a Judgment of the Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court granting custody of illegally transported cattle to the owners instead of a gaushala, whom the custody was granted by the Magistrate.
The Bench of Justice D. Y. Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli held that since the High Court had prima facie observed that the owners were in violation of the Transport of Animal Rules 1978, it was incumbent upon the Court to ensure that the seized cattle would be properly preserved and maintained until the conclusion of the trial proceedings.
Before the Apex Court, Senior Advocate Manish Singhvi with Advocate Ayush Anand appeared for the Appellant- Shri Chatrapati Shivaji Gaushala while Advocate Sachin Patil appeared for the Respondents.
In this case, a truck was intercepted and was found to be transporting eighteen cattle- fifteen bullocks and three buffaloes. The driver of the truck was unable to provide a satisfactory explanation about the relevant permits. An FIR was registered under Section 5A of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act 19951 and Section 6 of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act 1976, Section 11(1)(d) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960, Section 117 of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988 and other allied provisions.
The owners of the cattle filed an application under Sections 451 and 457 of CrPC seeking interim custody of the cattle. The Appellant gaushala filed an application for interim custody under proviso to Section 8(b) of the Maharashtra Act and Rules 3, 4, and 5 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules, 2017.
The JMFC rejected the application of the owners, noting that they did not have proper permits for carrying the cattle in the truck at the relevant time and observed that the cattle will be safe in the custody of the appellant gaushala.
The Additional Sessions Judge allowed the revision filed by the owners and granted them custody of the cattle.
The High Court dismissed the Writ Petition filed by the gaushala, despite noting that that prima facie, the material on the record indicated that the cattle were being subjected to cruel conditions.
The Apex Court held that the intention of the legislature in incorporating the proviso to Section 8(3) of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act (Maharashtra Act) was "to give effect to the object of the Maharashtra Act to preserve and protect cows, bulls, and bullocks useful for milch, breeding, draught, or agricultural purposes".
"The proviso to Section 8(3) of the Maharashtra Act provides for handing over of the seized cow, bull, or bullock to the nearest gosadan, goshala, pinjrapole, hinsa nivaran sangh or such other animal welfare organization willing to accept such custody. In the present case, the appellant was willing and ready to accept custody of the seized cattle. In light of the prima facie observation that the private respondents were in violation of the Transport of Animal Rules 1978, it was incumbent upon the High Court to ensure that the seized cattle would be properly preserved and maintained until the conclusion of the trial proceedings", the Court held.
The Court held that in view of the fact that owners were prima facie carrying the cattle in cruel conditions without a valid permit, the Magistrate rightly concluded that the cattle would be safe in the custody of the appellant instead of the private respondents and that "the ultimate direction which was issued by the High Court was contrary to the proviso to Section 8(3) of the Maharashtra Act".
The Court also held that trials for offences punishable under the Maharashtra Act must be concluded expeditiously and directed the trial court to take all necessary steps to conclude the trials within a period of six months.
Accordingly, the Court allowed the appeal while recording the submission of the gaushala that it will not insist on claiming any compensation for the maintenance of the animals pending the trial.
Cause Title: Shri Chatrapati Shivaji Gaushala v. The State of Maharashtra & Ors.