1 Dec 2022 4:16 AM GMT
A PIL has been filed in the Bombay High Court challenging a Government Resolution (GR) for withdrawal of prosecution against persons organising or participating in bullock cart races in the state. A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Abhay Ahuja on Wednesday posted the matter for hearing on January 12, 2023. On 13 April 2022, the State Government issued the...
A PIL has been filed in the Bombay High Court challenging a Government Resolution (GR) for withdrawal of prosecution against persons organising or participating in bullock cart races in the state.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Abhay Ahuja on Wednesday posted the matter for hearing on January 12, 2023.
On 13 April 2022, the State Government issued the GR approving withdrawal of offences filed against persons organising or participating in bullock cart races during the period when there was a ban on the organisation of bullock cart races in the state.
The GR provided that once the committee constituted under it recommends the withdrawal of prosecution in a certain case, the public prosecutor has to approach the concerned court for the same.
This violates section 321 of the Cr.P.C. and parameters laid down by the Supreme Court in State of Kerala v. K. Ajith, the petition, filed through advocate Preet Phanse contends.
According to the petition, the prosecutor has to take a decision on a case-to-case basis weighing various factors such as severeness of the crime and its impact on society before deciding to withdraw a prosecution. The public prosecutor's role is not limited to seeking directions from the court and mechanical manner without application of mind, the petitioner states.
Subsequent to the filing of this PIL, the state government issued a corrigendum to the GR providing that the prosecutor has to 'take appropriate decision as per section 321 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 and take further steps'.
According to the petition, the state government does not have any authority to issue such a GR. Under section 321 of the Cr.P.C., the public prosecutor in-charge of a certain case may decide to withdraw the prosecution. However, section 321 does not contemplate a general policy for withdrawal of prosecution, the petition contends.
The petition further contends that since the PCA Act was passed by the Parliament and is related to the concurrent list, prosecution under this Act cannot be withdrawn without the prior consent of the central government.
The petition submits that before the government issued the GR, the Home Minister had announced that all offences relating to bullock cart races will be withdrawn. Due to this, new offences are not being registered against persons organising, conducting or participating in bullock cart races. Instances of cruelty against animals will increase if offenders go unpunished and defeat the purpose of the PCA Act and Rules, according to the petition.
The petition submits that events such as bull-fighting are being organised in the guise of bullock cart races. It claimed that one such event was held in the Hindudurg district causing the death of one of the bulls participating in the fight. The petition submits that various instances of cruelty have occurred to the bulls during the bullock cart races. Some FIRs regarding bullock cart races have been attached in the petition.
The petition states that while there is no ban on the organisation of bullock cart races in the state right now, races cannot be organised in contravention of the PCA Act and the Rules. Withdrawing prosecution in cases where races are organised without permission or in contravention of the permission granted would defeat the penal provisions in the PCA Act. The petition claimed that the PCA Maharashtra Amendment Act 2017 and the Rules under it are not being implemented during the conduct of bullock cart races.
In 2011, the state government issued a notification banning bullock cart races, games, training, and exhibition in Maharashtra.
The state government later clarified that the ban on bullock cart races extend only to non-castrated bulls and castrated bulls would be allowed to be use for bullock cart races. In 2012, the Bombay High Court quashed this corrigendum in a PIL.
The Supreme Court in A. Nagaraja v. Animal Welfare Board of India held that bullock cart races and Jallikattu amounts to cruelty under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act).
In 2017, the state amended the PCA Act permitting conduct of bullock cart races in the state government. Thereafter, the Bombay High Court directed the state government to not grant any permissions for bullock cart races even after the PCA Maharashtra (Amendment) Act 2014 and Rules and under it are enforced.
An appeal against this is pending before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court in December 2021 held that the state amendments and rules would prevail during the pendency of the appeal.
The petition prays that the court set aside the GR and declare that it is in breach of section 321 of the Cr.P.C. as well as Supreme Court judgement in State of Kerala v. K. Ajith. The petition also seeks interim stay on the GR during the pendency of the PIL.
Case no. – Public Interest Litigation No. 74 of 2022
Case title – Ajay Madhusudan Marathe v. State of Maharashtra