In a matter related to cattle protection, the Supreme Court has ordered that the interim custody of illegally transported cattle be given to Dhyan Foundation's Gaushala, even though the courts below gave custody of the buffalos to the accused owner.

The Supreme Court was dealing with a Special Leave Petition filed by the Dhyan Foundation against an order of the Allahabad High Court which dismissed the application of the petitioner. Advocates K. Parameshwaran and Ayush Anand appeared for the petitioner.

The two-Judge Bench comprising Justice V. Ramasubramanian and Justice Pankaj Mithal ordered, “Issue notice, returnable in four weeks. In the meantime, the custody of the cattle shall continue to remain with the petitioner-Gaushala.” The Court has ordered notice to the state of UP and the owner of the cattle.

Before the High Court, the interim custody of 24 seized buffaloes was granted to the owner, after the complaint of illegal transportation of cattle as a result of which 24 more buffaloes were found dead.

Brief Facts

An FIR was registered under Sections 420, 429, and 511 of the IPC read with Section 11(a), (d), and (h) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 in this case. Last year, 24 dead buffaloes and 25 live buffaloes were recovered from 2 containers by the Police, and the drivers of both vehicles were taken into police custody.

As per the petitioner, the Chief Judicial Magistrate erroneously proceeded to grant interim custody of the live buffaloes to the respondent on the basis that he is the owner, disregarding the absolute liability of the owner for care and maintenance of the animals. Aggrieved by such an order, the petitioner preferred Criminal Revision before the Sessions Judge, Gorakhpur, and the same came to be dismissed. The petitioner then filed a plea before the Allahabad High Court which was also dismissed.

The issues raised before the Apex Court are-

1. Whether Respondent No. 2 is entitled for the relief of custody of the 24 buffaloes in case which has led to death of the other 25 buffaloes in violation of Sections 11 (a), (d), & (h) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, s. 428 & 429 of IPC and for the violation of s. 56(c) of the Transport of Animals Rules, 1978 and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ( Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules, 2017?

2. Whether the Hon’ble High Court erred while dismissing the application filed by the Petitioner and entrusting the custody of the 24 buffaloes over which cruelty had been inflicted and where there is reasonable apprehension that if bovine will be released to the abusive owners then the bovine will be again subject to same cruelty and may also be slaughtered at illegal slaughterhouse?

3. Whether the High Court failed to take note of Section 3, 11(2) of the Act, 1960, which imposes absolute and strict liability on the owners of the bovine?

4. Whether the High Court failed to take note of Rule 3 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules, 2017 which deals with case property animals and their custody pending litigation which bars abusive owners to take interim custody of the bovine pending litigation?

5. Whether the High Court failed to balance the right to property of the animal owners and the animal’s right to live free from unnecessary suffering, pain, and damage?

6. Whether the High Court erred in not appreciating the decision of the Supreme Court in State of U.P. vs. Mustakeem, Criminal Appeal Nos. 283-287/2002; Pinjrapole Deudar v. Chakram Moraji Nat, (1998) 6 SCC 520, Meher Banu Begum v. State of Assam & Anr., SLP (Criminal) No. 9997/2021, Raguram Sharma v. C Tulsi, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 1325, in the instant case?

Cause Title- Dhyan Foundation v. The State of Uttar Pradesh & Anr.

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