Sunder,a 13-year-old male elephant,may soon be able to roam free after suffering years of ill-treatment at the hands of his handlers in Kolhapur.
The Bombay High Court Tuesday directed the state government to act on the 2012 Maharashtra Forest Departments (MFD) order to release Sunder to a sanctuary and file a compliance report by December 23.
The court has ordered to shift the pachyderm to a wildlife rescue rehabilitation centre near Bangalore. Sunder is currently kept in a vacant poultry shed in Warnanagar,25 kilometres from Kolhapur.
The order came from a division bench of Justices V M Kanade and M S Sonak,which was hearing a writ petition filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
The bench,taking cognisance of photos submitted by PETA,said these clearly indicated cruelty and therefore the order must be complied with immediately.
The direction comes close on the heels of a video released by PETA last week that showed the mahout mercilessly beating the animal.
In June 2012,PETAs veterinarians,along with animal welfare officer Sunil Havaldhar from Animal Welfare Board of India,visited the temple after which a criminal complaint was filed in July 2012 under the Prevention to Cruelty to Animal Act at Kodali in Kolhapur.
Sunder had been kept chained at the temple for the past six years and his mahout used a spiked chain and the oral administration of tobacco to control him. Sunder was denied adequate food,sufficient water and daily walks. He sustained a severe injury to his right eye as a result of the mahouts use of an ankus (a sharp metal-tipped weapon) and had many injury marks all over his body, the complaint read.
Sunder has only known chains,loneliness,darkness and beatings for at least half of his life, says Dr Manilal Valliyate,director of veterinary affairs,PETA. We look forward to the day when Sunder is unchained and can enjoy the company of other elephants and get the care and freedom he so desperately needs and deserves.
According to PETA Indias counsel advocate Pankaj Bafna,the association is ready to take care of Sunder and will submit a proposal to the court at the next hearing.