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The Bombay High Court Monday directed the assistant commissioner (markets department) of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and senior inspector of the MRA police station, which is near Crawford market, to keep a strict vigil and ensure that the illegal sale of animals by pet shops in the market is stopped.
The court said that if non-compliance by the BMC officer and the police is reported to the court, action would be taken against them.
A division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice G S Kulkarni was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking closure of pet shops which sell birds and animals, including exotic species, at Crawford Market.
The petition also seeks criminal action against their owners for cruelty to animals and illegal trade.
Pointing to the affidavits filed by the state government and the BMC, the court said that the reply by them indicated that none of the authorities were serious about taking action against the illegal sale of animals.
“Only in cases when it comes to their notice, action of removing encroachments, cancelling of licences and handing over animals to veterinary hospital is taken. There is no systematic system to see that sale of animals is stopped,” said the High Court.
Chief Justice Manjula Chellur further directed, “We direct the assistant commissioner (markets department)and inspector of police MRA police station to keep a strict vigil and ensure eradication of illegal sale of animals in the market in question. We also direct the under secretary and secretary of Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority to make surprise visits and submit a report along with photos. If any non-compliance by either the assistant commissioner (markets department) or inspector of police is reported, the court shall initiate action against them.”
The matter has been kept for further hearing in four weeks. Besides animals, birds such as koels, jungle fowls, macaws, horn bill, munias, parakeets and mynahs are being openly sold in the market, the petition added.
The PIL cited a 2014 Supreme Court judgment which says that Article 21 of the Constitution of India — Protection of life and personal liberty — applies not only to human beings but also to animals.
“Action should be such that not a single illegal sale takes place. Such sale is happening right next to the Police Commissioner’s office,” said the court.