The Bombay High Court on Thursday did a U-turn from its earlier judgment dated June 8, 2015, wherein it had declared the activity of running horse-driven Victoria carriages in the city as “completely illegal”.
A bench headed by Justice VM Kanade said the state might consider plying of these horse carriages under “certain conditions and the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty Towards Animals Act must be followed”.
Although the bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka had deemed the plying of these carriages as completely illegal, it had also directed the state government to formulate a plan for rehabilitation of carriage owners.
Meanwhile, the state government informed the bench that the policy for rehabilitation of 221 affected families was ready and would be placed before the Cabinet soon.
Justice Kanade also suggested that horse carriage owners, riders and other affected parties could be given taxi and auto permits.
Relying upon a specific stand taken by the Mumbai Traffic Police, Justice Oka observed: “There is a specific stand taken by the Traffic Police that the horse carriages are no longer in use for public conveyance and today they are being used only for joyrides and as a mode of amusement. The specific stand is that they are not being used for the purpose for which they were granted licences under the Bombay Public Conveyance Act, 1920.”
In an affidavit filed by BK Upadhayay, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) in 2014, the following reasons were given to justify the traffic police’s decision not to renew licences of carriages:
1) In a city like Mumbai, there is an inherent safety risk in plying any Victoria carriages.
2) Ever increasing traffic density in the city is a reason.
3) Horses used to propel Victorias are suffering from serious diseases and are unable to manoeuvre themselves in heavy traffic, causing a number of accidents.
The observation made by the bench today is self-admittedly a ‘slight departure” from the stand taken by the high court in the 2015 judgment. Although, more than a year has passed, compliances are yet to be reported.
It will be interesting to note what transpires on May 2, the next date of hearing.
Read the Judgment here.