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Bird Flu: HC asks Nandurbar authorities to consider all aspects before taking ‘drastic’ steps of culling birds

A division bench of Justice Sanjay V Gangapurwala and Justice Shrikant D Kulkarni on February 18 was hearing petitions challenging the February 12 order.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
Updated: February 25, 2021 8:53:06 pm
Bombay High Court, Aurangabad, Nandurbar authorities, Bombay bird flu, Mumbai bird flu, bird flu cases in india, indian expressBombay High Court recently said the Nandurbar authorities ought not to take "drastic steps" towards culling thousands of birds from poultry farms in the district in view of the bird flu infection. (PTI File/Representational)

The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court recently said the Nandurbar authorities ought not to take “drastic steps” towards culling thousands of birds from poultry farms in the district in view of the bird flu infection, and may revisit the decision after considering all aspects for controlling the infection. A large number of birds are infected in the district.

The High Court, however, said it cannot substitute its views with those of experts the authorities have consulted. With this, the HC refused to intervene in the plea filed by two poultry farm owners in Nandurbar district challenging the decision to cull birds and eggs in their farms in order to contain the spread of the disease.

A division bench of Justice Sanjay V Gangapurwala and Justice Shrikant D Kulkarni on February 18 was hearing petitions challenging the February 12 order.

Advocate S P Brahme for the petitioners submitted that their poultry farms are beyond the 1-km periphery from affected farms, and that their farms have been tested time and again and reports were negative for bird flu. “In such a scenario, the authorities could not have directed culling of the birds as a possibility of the infection spreading was nil,” Brahme said.

Assistant Government Pleader P K Lakhotiya, however, submitted that the authorities have taken a “conscious decision” in consultation of the central government to “safeguard the life and health of the general public, so as to curtail the spread of infection” and birds in 21 poultry farms in the vicinity of the petitioners’ farms were found infected. “Infection is spreading at a large scale. The distance within 1 km from infected poultry farms is infected zone and up to 10 km is surveillance zone,” he said.

The bench observed, “It appears that the respondent authorities have taken emergent steps to arrest the spread of the infection. The authorities certainly would benefit from advice of experts in the particular field and be guided by the same. The court cannot substitute its views in place of expert views. Curtailing the spread of the infection of bird flu certainly would be the priority and a task to be done on a war footing We may not interfere in the said process.”

Referring to concerns on prohibition imposed by authorities on selling birds, eggs and other items from the petitioners’ poultry farms, the HC said, “The authorities ought not to have taken drastic steps for culling birds.”

Disposing of the pleas, the bench said, “It would be the decision of the authorities based on the advice of experts regarding steps to be taken to curtail spread of the infection. The authorities may revisit the decision of culling animals and after considering all aspects of the matter, may proceed with such steps as would appear to be proper for the spread of the infection. The decision would solely rest with the authorities.”

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