Before adjourning the hearing till November 16, a division bench comprising justices Sanjiv Khanna and JK Maheshwari issued notice to Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) and Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), stating that it would like to hear NMC’s version on the HC order.
“The order requires few modifications. If stray dogs are not fed, they will become aggressive. We need assistance from the civic body but at the same time there should be few checks as well,” the bench said.
While refusing to grant any interim relief to the petitioners, the judges said their prayer that coercive steps should not be taken against those violating the HC orders will be taken up on the next date.
The top court’s observations came while hearing a special leave petition (SLP) filed by two city women, along with one from Mumbai, challenging Nagpur bench’s orders that prohibited dog lovers from feeding them at public places and gardens, said respondent Vijay Talewar’s counsel Shakul Ghatole.
One more petition challenging the HC order has been filed by Janice Smith Animal Welfare Trust through its chairman Manoj Oswal, and Harshwardhan Choudhary. The two petitions were clubbed by the SC.
The HC orders had been passed on Talewar’s petition filed through lawyer Firdos Mirza in 2006, praying for controlling the growing stray dog menace in the city.
Petitioners Swati Chatterjee and Mrudula Godbole from Nagpur along with Pallavi Patil from Mumbai pointed out that the HC orders are inconsistent with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1961.
Through counsels Surbhi Kapoor, Abhay Anturkar, Bhavya Pande, and Dhruv Tank, the petitioners pointed out that HC had directed the police to use their powers under Section 44 of the Maharashtra Police Act, 1951, to detain stray dogs on receiving complaints from citizens. This section did not mention detention of dogs, they argued.
The petitioners objected to HC directives to NMC commissioner to ensure that no feeding of street dogs takes place at any place, except at feeder’s own property or in their shelter homes or any authorized place. The HC had called on the civic chief to levy a maximum fine of Rs200 for every breach from the feeders.
The petitioners opposed another directive by the bench of justices Sunil Shukre and Anil Pansare, where the feeders were told to adopt and register the stray dogs first with NMC before feeding them.
Opposing the HC orders to the commissioner of police (CP) and rural SP to detain stray dogs under Section 44 of the Maharashtra Police Act, 1951, by whatever means, the petitioners argued that this provision calls for issuance of a public notice proclaiming that any stray found wandering in the street or in any public place may be destroyed. “The provision does not contemplate detention of dogs. Subclause (3) mentions that a dog which has been detained may be destroyed or sold,” they said.
Justices Shukre and Anil Pansare in their October 20 order had said animal lovers continue to behave irresponsibly leading to increasing problems for the civic authorities in controlling stray dogs. “These citizens posing themselves as sympathizers and friends of stray dogs, leave their houses on two and four wheelers carrying loads of food items meant for distribution amongst the street dogs. They make their stops in different localities, offer food packets and different tidbits to such dogs unmindful of the big harm that they are doing to the society. These supposed friends do not realise the disastrous consequences of their charity,” they said.