Delhi High Court has directed the Animal Welfare Board to inspect all the registered circuses to ascertain the conditions of animals.
The Division Bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar further asked the Board place on record the basis for the complete inspection not being carried out.
The submissions were made in a bunch of writ petitions moved by PETA India and FIAPO seeking a direction to be issued to the Union of India, AWBI, Central Zoo Authority and registered circuses to ensure immediate prohibition on training and exhibition of performing animals in circuses and mobile entertainment facilities.
In addition to this, the petition filed by FIAPO has also separately challenged the validity of Section 21-27 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to the extent that they permit exhibition and training of animals for circuses.
During the last hearing, the court had pulled up AWBI for not conducting physical surveys for ascertaining conditions of animals and simply relying on the correspondence conducted with registered circuses. The court had directed the said Board to conduct a survey in the presence of veterinarians and submit a report. Representatives of FIAPO and PETA were also allowed to participate in these surveyed and provide medical assistance to ailing animals if required.
Appearing for FIAPO, Senior Advocate Dayan Krishnan submitted that as per its affidavit, AWB has conducted surveys only in 19 out of the 28 circuses. Moreover, Mr Krishnan continued, a show-cause notice has been issued to only one of them - The Great Golden Circus.
'As per the record of AWB, there are 744 animals which are kept in captivity at circuses or temples. However, AWB has monitoring data only on 28 out of those 744 animals. Moreover, out of 29 circuses, only 1 is registered. There's some license raj system is going on where these circuses are operating by flouting rules and keeping certain officers happy', Mr Krishnan argued.
Appearing for PETA, Mr Aman Hingorani informed the court that Animal Welfare Board has not complied with the court's last order wherein the Board was directed to submit a status report on the conditions of animals in all the circuses across the country.
'AWI has simply asked the state boards to conduct these surveys and submit a report. This is in violation of this court's order', Mr Hingorani argued.
Mr Hingorani further submitted that the AWB shall be directed to identify circuses which are no longer functional and those which are still operating so that the appropriate parties can be added to these matters.
In light of these submissions, the court directed AWB to submit a status report on the inspection of circuses by the next date of hearing. Moreover, ZAI is also directed to submit an affidavit stating the status of the animals which are kept in captivity, both in circuses that are operating and those which have been shut down.
The court will begin hearing this petition on merits on January 28.