5 Nov 2022 5:15 AM GMT
The Gauhati High Court has reiterated that an accused person can be handed over the interim custody of cattle seized consequent to an alleged offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 ('PCA Act').Single bench of Justice Robin Phukan found it worthwhile to reproduce the following observations of the Supreme Court in Manager, Pinjrapole Deudar & vs. Chakram Moraji Nat...
The Gauhati High Court has reiterated that an accused person can be handed over the interim custody of cattle seized consequent to an alleged offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 ('PCA Act').
Single bench of Justice Robin Phukan found it worthwhile to reproduce the following observations of the Supreme Court in Manager, Pinjrapole Deudar & vs. Chakram Moraji Nat & Ors (1998):
The facts which led to the present matter were that upon a telephonic tip to the police, it was brought to their notice that the private respondents herein were carrying a large number of animals covered with timber, in goods-carrying vehicles. Acting on the tip, the ASI, along with other police officials, conducted a 'naka checking,' where 62 cattle were recovered being carried in 8 vehicles.
The vehicles and cattle were seized and a case was registered against the respondents under Sections 420, 429 and 511 of the IPC, r/w Sections 11(a), 11(d), and 11(h) of the PCA. The seized cattle were thereafter transferred to the gaushala of the petitioner-foundation. During the pendency of the trial, both the petitioner and the respondents filed petitions for custody of the cattle. By an order, the Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate granted the interim custody of the cattle to the private respondents, which order was under challenge in the present revision petition.
The foundation relied on several Supreme Court decisions to contend that the interim custody of animals ought not to be handed over to the accused, if there is allegation of cruelty against the animals in the FIR. The foundation then stated that as per the Supreme Court, a container or a vehicle could not carry more than six cattle, whereas in the instant case, 62 cattle were being carried in eight small vehicles in contravention of Rule 56(c) of the Transport of Animals Rules, 1978.
The petitioner further argued that violation of Rule 56(c), in itself amounted to cruelty, which required no further evidence. Finally, the petitioner contended that Section 3 of the PCA Act placed a duty upon every person, having the care or charge of an animal, to take all reasonable measures to ensure the well-being of such animal and to prevent infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering upon such animal, which the respondents failed to perform in the present case. Therefore, it argued that the custody of the cattle could not be handed over to the respondents.
The respondents, on the other hand, argued that the PCA or the PCA Rules, 2017 placed no legal bar in releasing the seized cattle in the interim custody of the owners. Reliance was placed on the Supreme Court decision in Manager, Pinjrapole Deudar and Others v. Chakram Moraji Nat and Others, MANU/SC/0557/1998. The respondents also argued that the FIR showed no prima-facie evidence about subjecting the cattle to cruelty. It was also argued by the respondents that there was no material to suggest that the cattle were carried under logs and that the High Court could not re-appreciate the facts while hearing a revision petition.
Answering the question of cruelty, the High Court found no infirmity in the order of the Magistrate, who had held that there was nothing in the FIR that could suggest that the animals had to bear unnecessary pain or suffering. Hence, culpability under Sections 11(1)(a) or 11(1) (d) of PCA could not be established.
In connection with the question of custody of the animals, the court referred to the decisions in Shri Chatrapati Shivaji Gaushala and in Manager, Pinjrapole Deudar and observed that under Section 35(2) of the PCA, there was no mandate that the Magistrate shall send the animal to a pinjrapole (animal shelter). The Court observed that the Magistrate had the discretion to hand over the interim custody of the animal to a pinjrapole, but was not bound to do so.
"Keeping the ratios, laid down in the aforementioned cases in mind, and also in the light of facts and circumstances on the record, while the impugned order of the learned court below is examined, this court left unimpressed by the submission of the learned counsel for the petitioner that the impugned order had failed to withstand the test of legality, propriety and correctness. Therefore, the submissions, so advanced by the learned counsel for the petitioner cannot be acceded to," said the Court.
Accordingly, the Court found no infirmity in the order of the Magistrate granting interim custody of the seized cattle in favour of the accused-respondents.
Case Title: Dhyan Foundation v. State of Assam and 7 Others
Case No: Crl. Rev. P. 146 of 2021
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Gau) 66
Coram: Justice Robin Phukan
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