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Supreme Court Stays Bombay HC Observation That People Who Feed Street Dogs Must Adopt Them; Asks Dog Feeders Not To Create Public Nuisance

16 Nov 2022 8:59 AM GMT
Supreme Court Stays Bombay HC Observation That People Who Feed Street Dogs Must Adopt Them; Asks Dog Feeders Not To Create Public Nuisance

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered that no coercive steps shall be taken in pursuance of the order of the Bombay High Court(Nagpur Bench) which prohibited the public feeding of street dogs.

The Court also stayed the High Court's observation that persons who feed street dogs must adopt them.

A bench comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and JK Maheshwari stayed the following observation in the High Court's order : "If these so called friends of stray dogs are really interested in protection and welfare of the stray dogs, they must adopt the stray dogs, take home the stray dogs or at least put them up in some good dog shelter homes and bear all the expenses for their registration with Municipal Authorities and towards their maintenance, health and vaccination".

The bench passed the interim order while considering a special leave petition filed by a group of dog lovers against the High Court's order.

Other Court directions :

The Court also directed the Nagpur Municipal Corporation to ensure and take steps for the general public to feed the stray dogs at appropriate locations demarcated by them. Till the locations are identified, it will be open to the Municipal authorities to deal with any nuisance caused by the street dogs in accordance with the law.

"We also require the general public to ensure that no public nuisance is caused by feeding of stray dogs", the Court stated in the order.

It will be open for the Municipal Authorities to take down the names and details of persons who create public nuisance by feeding street dogs. However, no coercive action in the form of penalties should be taken by the Authorities as directed by the High Court in respect of public feeding of dogs.

The Court has directed the Animal Welfare Board of India and the Nagpur Municipal Corporation to file their responses.

Are the High Court directions practical? SC asks

A bench comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and JK Maheshwari wondered if the directions of the Bombay High Court that the people who want to feed street dogs should adopt them and take them home or put them in shelter homes are practical.

"You cannot insist that the people who feed street dogs should adopt them,", Justice Khanna orally said.

The bench asked the counsel representing the Nagpur Municipal Corporation, "Do you think the order is practical?". The counsel replied that she needs to get instructions.

The bench also asked the Animal Welfare Board of India about its stand and asked if the High Court directions are practical. "If these stray dogs are not fed, they will become more aggressive", the Board's counsel replied. She submitted that the Board has issued guidelines to all states regarding the feeding of stray dogs, and if those are followed, the issue can be solved.

Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for an intervenor, opposed the passing of interim order. Rejecting the objection, Justice Khanna said ,"To say that the stray dogs should be adopted or kept in captivity is not acceptable".

When Sankaranarayanan submitted that there are studies which show that dogs become aggressive on feeding, Justice Khanna replied, "there is counter-literature on that too".

Another counsel, to oppose the interim order, submitted that the High Court has only prohibited the feeding of dogs at public places. "Where else do the street dogs live? Do they have private residences?", Justice Khanna asked.

"Street dogs are not going to be kept in captivity. If that is your position, we cannot do anything. Sorry. If there is a problem with respect to the population, they may be relocated as per the law", Justice Khanna said.

The impugned decision requires persons interested in feeding stray dogs to first adopt and register such dogs with Municipal Authorities or to put them in some shelter home. Meanwhile, the High Court also directed the concerned authorities under Section 44 of the Maharashtra Police Act, 1951 to detain all stray dogs wandering in the public streets.

The Petitioners allege that these directions not only adversely affect the rights of street dogs, care-givers but are also contrary to both statutory provisions as well as the orders of the Supreme Court.

It avers that after the High Court's direction, the Nagpur Municipal Corporation has started picking up and detaining street dogs on a large scale. However, the authorities have failed to take into consideration that the Guidelines issued by the Animal Welfare Board of India in relation to feeding of stray dogs and the Guidelines with respect to harassment of citizens showing compassion towards other living creatures.

The plea highlights that there is no legislation which prohibits feeding of stray dogs or otherwise makes it a penal offence and thus contends that Article 226 cannot be invoked to direct statutory authorities to act contrary to law.

It states that blanket direction for detention of stray dogs is illegal inasmuch as Rule 7 of the Animal Birth Control Rules makes it abundantly clear that capturing/detention of dogs shall be based on "specific complaints" about nuisance or dog bite.

It refers to Supreme Court's decision in Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja which recognized that animals' right to life and dignity and the right to get protection from human beings.

It is submitted that the High Court's decision is also inconsistent with the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, Section 3 whereof guarantees the right to get food, shelter to animals.

Reliance is also placed on Dr. Maya D. Chablani v. Radha Mittal, where the Delhi High Court observed that stray dogs have the right to food and citizens have the right to feed community dogs. The High Court had also cautioned dog-care givers to ensure that they do not cause any harm or nuisance to other individuals or members of the society.

The plea asserts that "to have compassion for living creatures" is a constitutional mandate, as reflected in Article 51-A(g) under Part IV-A of the Constitution which declares Fundamental Duties of every citizen.

"Every citizen must show kindness and love towards non-vocal beings, including stray dogs," the plea states.

The petition has been filed by Advocate Abhay Antutkar, Adv. Bhavya Pande,Adv. Dhruv Tank and Adv. Surbhi Kapoor, AOR.

Case Title: Swati Sudhirchandra Chatterjee & Ors. v. Vijay Shankarrao Talewar & Ors.

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