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Supreme Court Vacates Stay On Delhi HC Order On Citizens' Right To Feed Street Dogs

Sohini Chowdhury
19 May 2022 9:45 AM GMT
Supreme Court Vacates Stay On Delhi HC Order On Citizens Right To Feed Street Dogs

Image by - Quint

The Supreme Court on Thursday vacated the stay the operation of an order of the Delhi High Court which had held that citizens have a right to feed street dogs and issued guidelines pertaining to feeding street dogs.

A 3-judge bench comprising Justices UU Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia vacated the stay order passed on March 4, 2022, by a division bench comprising Justices Vineet Saran and Aniruddha Bose.

An SLP was filed by an NGO 'Humane Foundation for People and Animals' challenging the Delhi High Court order dated 24.06.2021. The NGO had contended that the High Court order is based on misleading, irrelevant and factually incorrect statements and misinformation problems associated with stray dogs and the existing laws in that regard. It was apprehensive that the High Court's directions can lead to increase of stray dog menace. As the NGO was not a party to the suit, an application seeking permission to file SLP was also filed.

On 04.03.2022, the Division Bench comprising Justice Vineet Saran and Aniruddha Bose stayed the order of the High Court. Subsequently, Advocate Prerna Singh had filed an application for vacation of stay in the SLP filed by the NGO.

The 3-judge bench was told that the High Court's directions came in a civil suit between two parties and that the said suit has now been settled. Therefore, the NGO, which is not a party to the suit, has no locus to challenge the same, the applicant contended.

Taking note of the fact that the private parties involved in the suit before the High Court have settled the matter, the 3-judge bench today disposed of the SLP of the NGO and vacated the order dated 04.03.2022.

The bench passed the following order :

"This SLP arises out of a judgment dated 24.06.2021 passed by Delhi HC. In the course of his judgment the Ld. Judge arrived at certain conclusions …The matter came up before this court on 04.03.2022. The operation of the order of Delhi HC was stayed. The petition was filed seeking permission to file SLP as Human Foundation for People and Animals was not party to the suit. It is understood that the parties to the said suit settled the matter. Since the matter dealt with controversies arising between two private parties, the applicant seeking permission to file SLP has no locus. We, therefore dispose of the petition and vacate the interim order dated 04.03.2022."

Senior Advocate Aman Lekhi, briefed by Advocates Ms.Gargi Khanna and Mr.Ishan Kapoor appeared for the applicant Prerna Singh

What was the High Court's order?

The petition was filed against the order passed by a single bench of the Delhi High Court in June 2021 in an injunction application which sought to restrain private defendants from feeding stray dogs near the entrance of the suit property.

While deciding the application, a single judge of Justice JR Midha observed thus:

"Community dogs (stray/street dogs) have the right to food and citizens have the right to feed community dogs but in exercising this right, care and caution should be taken to ensure that it does not impinge upon the rights of others or cause any harm, hindrance, harassment and nuisance to other individuals or members of the society."

Furthermore, the bench said:

"Every dog is a territorial being, and therefore, the street dogs have to be fed and tended to at places within their territory which are not frequented, or less frequented, and sparingly used by the general public and residents."

The single judge has directed that feeding of the community dogs have to be done at "areas designated by the AWBI in consultation with Resident Welfare Associations or Municipal Corporation."

Stating that such bodies have to be conscious of the fact that such dogs are territorial being, the Court has directed that it is the duty of the AWBI and the RWAs to ensure and keep in mind the fact that "community dogs live in 'packs' and care should be taken by the AWBI and RWAs to see that each pack ideally has different designated areas for feeding even if that means designating multiple areas in a locality."

Furthermore, the Court has directed that all Law enforcement authorities shall ensure that no harassment or hindrance is caused to the person feeding street dog at the designated feeding spot and to properly implement the AWBI Revised Guidelines on Pet dogs and street dogs dated 26th February, 2015.

"Animals have a right under law to be treated with compassion, respect and dignity. Animals are sentient creatures with an intrinsic value. Therefore, protection of such beings is the moral responsibility of each and every citizen including the governmental and non-governmental organisations", the High Court had observed.

Observing that no person can restrict the other from feeding of dogs, until and unless it is causing harm or harassment to that other person, the Court has further directed that residents and the members of the RWA as well as the dog feeders have to act in harmony with each other and not in a manner which shall lead to unpleasant circumstances in the colony.

"AWBI shall ensure that every Resident Welfare Association or Municipal Corporation (in case RWA is not available), shall have an Animal Welfare Committee, which shall be responsible for ensuring compliance of the provisions of the PCA Act and ensure harmony and ease of communication between caregivers, feeders or animal lovers and other residents", the Court had directed.

The Court has also said that dogs have to be sterilized and vaccinated and returned to the same area and that the accinated and sterilized dogs cannot be removed by the Municipality.

"If any of the street / community dogs is injured or unwell, it shall be the duty of the RWA to secure treatment for such dog by the vets made available by the Municipal Corporation and / or privately from the funds of the RWA", the High Court said.

Furthermore, it has been observed that "Every RWA should form Guard and Dog partnerships and in consultation with the Delhi Police Dog Squad, the dogs can be trained to make them effective as guard dogs and yet friendly to those who live in the colony."

"The importance of street dogs‟ in our community is of great significance. Being territorial animals, they live in certain areas and play the role of guards by protecting the community from the entry of outsiders or unknown people. If these are removed from a certain area, the new stray dogs will take their place." The Court observed at the outset.

Observing that there is a need to spread awareness that even animals have a right to live with respect and dignity, the Court has directed that AWBI shall carry out an awareness campaign in association with various Newspapers, Television, Radio Channels and Social Media platforms.

The Court has also constituted an implementation committee for the purpose of implementation of the guidelines which shall constitute the following members:

(i) The Director, Animal Husbandry Department or his nominee.

(ii) One Senior Officer to be nominated by all the Municipal Corporations.

(iii) One Senior Officer to be nominated by Delhi Cantonment Board.

(iv) One Senior Officer to be nominated by Animal Welfare Board of India.

(v) Ms. Nandita Rao, Additional Standing Counsel, Govt. of NCT of Delhi as Convenor.

(vi) Ms. Manisha T. Karia, Advocate for Animal Welfare Board of India.

(vii) Mr. Pragyan Sharma, Advocate

Case Title : Human Foundation for People and Animals vs Animal Welfare Board of India and others

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