The Kerala High Court on Friday continued its hearing on the stray dog menace in Kerala, and issued further directions in this regard.
The Court questioned what measures were taken to identify rabid dogs, based on the alarming figures it had noted in recent media reports which showed that there was 50% Test positivity. The Court asked the Additional Advocate General how many dogs had been identified as rabid. The Court further noted that rabies could be spread even by other animals such as rats and mongoose, and directed the Additional Advocate General to submit a report on the steps taken in that line.
The Division Bench comprising Justice A. K. Jayashankaran Nambiar and Justice Gopinath P. J., also directed Kudumbashree to furnish details on all the Animal Birth Control Centres owned and operated by them in the State, the facilities available in each of those units, as well as the personnels including the doctors and paramedical staff engaged by them in the conduct of the ABC programme. The Organization was directed to submit the report within two weeks in this regard.
"Money was being utilized. No doubt about it. Give us proper records", Court remarked orally.
The said direction was issued when it was informed by the Counsel appearing on behalf of the Kudumbashree, Advocate Prakash, that the organization was involved only in the capture, feeding and cleaning of the dogs, and that the ABC procedures were being conducted by the doctors who were hired for the said purposes, and that the staff of the organization do not have the expertise for conducting the ABC procedure. It was informed by the Counsel that the Kudumbashree had been organizing the programme. The Bench came down heavily upon the same and orally remarked,
"What do you mean by organizing? Organizing is a vague word. All these wonderful words such as 'organizing', 'initiative' etc are there, tell us what you were actually doing".
To this the counsel informed that the Kudumbashree had 30 Units with 5 personnel each for the said purpose involved in feeding, cleaning and capture of the dogs and that there were recognized veterinary surgeons provided by the Animal Husbandry department. It was further informed by the Counsel that the money allotted to them was also utilized for paying these veterinary doctors.
"That was not the understanding. For doing this, why should they pay you so much? The State Government's understanding was also not the same", the Court asking.
The Court further questioned why the Kudumbashree was paying the veterinary doctors, when the government itself was paying its doctors.
"This was not the agenda. Kudumbashree is only providing the Centre. That was not our understanding till date, Neither was it the understanding of the State Government".
When the Court was informed by the Counsel that the Kudumbashree was hiring government veterinary surgeons for the said purpose, the Court questioned whether the government doctors could conduct private practice, and added that the same would open another set of issues.
In the earlier order dated 16.09.2022, it had been informed to the Court that the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) would grant permission to the Kudumbashree to conduct the ABC Programme, after its inspection. When the Court sought the update regarding the same, it was informed to the Court today that AWBI had found that there was a lack of infrastructural facilities in the Kudumbashree.
The Bench, while taking note of the additional statement filed on behalf of the Trivandrum Corporation that the facilities at the ABC Centre at Vandithadam had been revamped, and the facility could be used to provide shelter for community dogs brought for the ABC procedure, the Court directed the Amicus Curiae Advocate T.C. Suresh Menon, to visit the premises of the said facility in order to ascertain that the same could be used for the ABC procedure. It was added that necessary directions could then be issued to the Government to use the facility for the ABC program that had been commenced by the State government across the State. During the oral hearings, when a question was posed before the Bench whether the Corporation would also be able to use the said facility, the Bench replied that at the first instance, the State could use it, and as a next step, it would subsequently be clarified that the Corporation could also avail the facility. It was also added by the Court that the Trivandrum Corporation ought to make the necessary arrangements for the Amicus Curiae to conduct the inspection.
The Bench also took note of the state of affairs of the police dogs, and the dog squad brought to its attention through the 6th Report presented by the Amicus Curiae. It was noted by the Court that the Report highlighted that the present facility for the police dogs at Kuttikkanam in Idukki District as being unsuitable for housing the said dogs which are an integral part of the police force. The Additional Advocate General, Ashok M. Cherian sought time to seek instructions regarding the same, and the Bench has accordingly, decided to take up the same by the next date of posting.
The Court further addressed the situation of licensing of dogs in all Corporations being manual, which leads to difficulties for the dog owners in applying for license, and directed the Additional Advocate General, Ashok M. Cherian to inform the Court regarding the possibility of having an online procedure for the same in local self government institutions across the State.
The Bench today, also permitted two impleading petitions filed by the NGO Apex Council for Residents Association in Ernakulam District, as well as by the Kollam District Panchayat.
The Court had, last Friday (16th September 2022), directed that during the time taken by the State to establish and set up the machinery in the State to contain the menace of stray dogs, prompt, efficient and free medical assistance ought to be provided to all victims of dog bites by government hospitals and hospitals attached to government medical colleges. It had added that the said treatment also ought to be without prejudice to the right of the person concerned to separately seek compensation from the State for the injuries, mental and/or physical, sustained by him/her, before the appropriate forum.
Case Title: In Re Bruno v. Union of India