The Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed the race club here to ensure that stabled horses do not participate in any races till further orders, while asking the AAP government to test serum samples of the equines to find out if they were suffering from the fatal glanders disease.
Justice Rajiv Shakdher, however, allowed the Delhi Race Club and an association of owners of the equines to exercise the animals, but in small groups, and listed the matter for further hearing on March 5.
The court directed the Delhi government to test all or some of the 422 horses at the club to ascertain whether any of them suffer from the disease, which has no cure or vaccine, and to place a report before it of the results.
It also told the government to be “a little bit practical” and apply its mind as it did before the Republic Day celebrations in which the horses of the armed forces as well as the Presidential Guard had participated despite outbreak of the fatal disease in the national capital.
The order came on a plea by the Delhi Race Horses Owners’ Association challenging the Delhi government’s February 13 communication to the race club to postpone or cancel the North India Derby horse race scheduled for February 27 as the national capital has been declared as a controlled area.
Senior advocates Rajiv Nayar and Dayan Krishnan, appearing for the association, told the court that all the 422 horses have already been tested by an accredited lab and declared free of glanders, an infection by bacterium burkholderia mallei caused by ingestion of contaminated feed or water.
Its symptoms include formation of nodular lesions in lungs and ulcers in respiratory tract with acute cases resulting in coughing, fever, and septicaemia.
The association’s lawyers also contended that 11 races have already been held between December last year and February 13, “so why this sudden glanders anxiety now?”
In response, Delhi government standing counsel Ramesh Singh and additional standing counsel Naushad Ahmed Khan contended that once Delhi has been declared as a “controlled area”, under the provisions of the Prevention and Control of Infectious and Contagious Diseases in Animals Act, the consequence would be a bar on holding any activity involving grouping or herding of any species of animals.
The government lawyers argued that in view of the consequential bar under the Act, no races can be held in the national capital and the horses should not be exercised in large groups.
They also told the court that since January 15, 49 cases of glanders were detected and in several cases the animal had to be culled.
On January 15, a notification was issued by the Delhi government directing that no equine movement to and from the national capital was allowed for three months to check the spread of the contagious infection.
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