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Court finds seizure illegal,cow to be returned to owner

Maya Devi knew she was in for trouble when her cow was impounded by a team of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi officials in September.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi |
March 13, 2009 12:24:18 am

Maya Devi knew she was in for trouble when her cow was impounded by a team of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi officials in September. She,however,did not imagine it would take a five-month-long legal wrangle to get her cow back.

After it went astray in Northeast Delhi’s Karawal Nagar area,Maya’s cow was taken away by Corporation officials on September 24 during a drive aimed at keeping cattle off the city’s roads and public places.

Maya,in accordance with established procedure,approached the area veterinary officer within seven days of the cow’s confiscation and requested for its release. She agreed to pay for all the expenditure incurred by the civic body on carriage and upkeep of her cow,as well as the penalty for violation of the relevant provisions of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act.

When she failed to elicit any response,she sent a legal notice to the officer on December 3 and again on December 11,asking the department to return her cow as per the rules. However,the officer,through a letter sent on December 23,refused to let the cow go and informed Maya that her cow had already been sent to a goshala.

Maya then constituted a civil suit against the Corporation’s veterinary officer for allegedly not acting in consonance with the set rules and unreasonably refusing to free her cow.

Taking up her petition,the court asked the civic body official the reasons for him not entertaining her request and he came up with a rather unusual contention. The official said there was no provision to release rounded up cows as the cattle were sent by the Corporation to various gosadans/goshalas in the city straight away.

Moreover,there was no difference between seizure,impounding and auctioning an animal under the DMC Act,the officer claimed and said Maya’s cow was in fact sent to a goshala even before it was formally impounded.

Additional Civil Judge Anil Kumar,however,pulled him up for placing before him the contention that there was no difference between the various acts. “There is no doubt that acts of seizure,impounding and auction are totally different from each other. In my opinion,any animal seized by the Corporation may be impounded only if its owner fails to make a claim within seven days or fails to pay the necessary expenses,as decided by the commissioner or authorised officer,” the court observed.

The court noted that according to a recent Delhi High Court ruling,the auction of animals has in fact been prohibited in the Capital. The judge also noted that Maya had successfully brought on record that she approached the competent official within seven days,whereas the department had failed to perform its duty.

“I find that after its seizure,the cow has neither been duly impounded nor has a prosecution been launched against the plaintiff. Hence,I find that the refusal of the MCD to release the plaintiff’s cow is unlawful. The plaintiff is entitled to get her cow back,” ACJ Anil Kumar said. The court passed a decree in Maya’s favour and directed the Corporation to release her cow immediately.

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