The Supreme Court on Thursday restrained vigilante groups in Kerala from imparting training to children and distributing airguns to people at a subsidised rate to kill stray dogs and publicly propagate that there was a “war” against canines in the state. A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy said it failed to understand as to how such groups could be formed to eliminate stray dogs when there is a law to deal with the issue.
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“In view of the aforesaid submission of the counsel for the state, we restrain such organisations to impart training to the children or to distribute subsidised airguns for people to kill stray dogs or to publicly propagate that there is war against the stray dogs or strangulate the stray dogs or for that matter offer prizes or incentives to those who kill the stray dogs. Needless to say, our directions are not exhaustive but illustrative,” the bench said.
The bench also took note of the submissions advanced by Kerala’s counsel who said that the state government was making “immense efforts” to curtail spread of stray dogs and it was trying to ensure that no canines attack human beings.
“However, we really fail to fathom that when there is a law in place to deal with the stray dogs, how the associations and groups can be formed to train the children to kill the stray dogs or an association which can distribute subsidised airguns for people to kill stray dogs or publicly propagate that there must be war against stray dogs,” it said.
When the court was told that stray dogs were continuously attacking and killing human beings in Kerala, the bench remarked, “An impression should not go that human lives have a lesser value than the dog’s life. Human life is divine.”
The bench also referred to its earlier order which had said that the Kerala government and other authorities in the state can go for culling of stray dogs as per the provisions of the relevant Act and Central rules.
Kerala’s counsel told the bench that citizens cannot form such associations and take the law into their hands.
The court had earlier set up a panel headed by former Kerala High Court judge Sri Jagan to inquire into the incidents of common people and children killing stray dogs and the support rendered to this by several vigilante groups in the state.
The court, in its order, today noted various steps taken by the Centre on the issue. The Centre, in its affidavit, has said, “Involvement of various agencies/departments at the central and state level, more particularly at the state level, was required in the proper and effective control and management of stray dogs as per ABC Rules implemented by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI).
“As the task had to be performed through the municipal authorities and other state government departments at the state level, the state governments should be advised to set up and strengthen institutional mechanisms and the AWBI should be part of such mechanism.
“State governments have already been advised by the central government to set up state-level Animal Welfare Boards which should be the nodal mechanism to perform this task.” It also said that the Health Ministry may be asked to identify a scheme/source of funding for the control and management of stray dogs through relevant agency at the state level.
The bench has fixed the matter for further hearing on March 1. The apex court had earlier asked the Kerala government to file its response along with the details of action taken against the offenders.
The bench had also granted time to the Centre to file its response on the module dealing with aspects of ‘implementation framework for street dog population management, rabies eradication and reducing man-dog conflict’ filed by AWBI.
The bench was hearing a batch of petitions filed by various NGOs and individual petitioners in the matter.
An apex court-appointed panel headed by former Kerala High Court judge S S Jagan, in its interim report, had said that more than one lakh people in Kerala have been bitten by dogs in 2015-16 and warned that frequent stray dog attacks on children there have created a dangerous situation.
Some NGOs and individual petitioners have moved the apex court against the decisions of some high courts, including the Bombay High Court and the Kerala High Court, to allow municipal authorities to deal with the stray dogs menace as per the rules.