The inspection should be carried out within two weeks in the presence of veterinary doctors and local MLA Vinay Kore

Mumbai : The Bombay High Court on Thursday allowed an animal rights group to carry out inspection of an elephant currently kept in Kolhapur to study its health in the wake of torture allegation. The inspection should be carried out within two weeks in the presence of veterinary doctors and local MLA Vinay Kore, a Bench headed by Justice V M Kanade said.

In a petition, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had alleged the male elephant – Sunder – who was in  the care of Devasthan Management Committee, which manages the famous Jyotiba Temple in Kolhapur, till a few months ago, was tortured and starved in the last six years.

However, the temple management denied the allegations in the High Court. An affidavit filed by Rajaram Mane, President of the temple trust, denied that Sunder was chained at the temple and the `mahout’ (elephant-keeper) used a spiked chain and oral administration of tobacco to control him.

“It is incorrect to state that Sunder was denied adequate food, water and daily walks. The elephant was never controlled by beating, or prodded and gouged in sensitive areas behind knees and ears with ankush (a sharp-edged iron rod),” the affidavit further claimed.

The temple committee, by a resolution passed on December 26, 2013 gifted Sunder to Warna Sahakari Dudh Utpadan Society, a milk cooperative. The animal, accordingly, has been shifted to the company premises where it walks in open air.

The temple management has claimed Sunder’s health is in good state and two mahouts have been appointed in addition to a veterinary doctor to provide medicines and any other help required to the pachyderm.

The affidavit said regular check-ups by wildlife experts were being carried out for the animal’s betterment.

Earlier, State counsel J S Saluja had informed the HC that a two-member panel, comprising a local veterinarian and a wildlife expert, had examined Sunder on January 18 and opined it would not be possible to shift the jumbo anywhere since it was in the advanced stage of musth (a periodic condition in adult male elephants characterised by aggressive behaviour).

In July 2012, the plight of young elephant, which was gifted to the temple by Kore, was brought to PETA’s notice.

An inspection carried out by veterinary officers found Sunder to be underweight, with scars all over his body and a hole in his ear that indicated regular abuse inflicted by mahout to control him.

Following the examination, in August 2012, the Forest Department issued an order to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Nagpur, to relocate Sunder to a sanctuary in adjoining Karnataka on expenses to be borne by PETA.

Kore, however, filed a petition challenging the order to relocate the elephant from Kolhapur. His petition is being heard along with that of PETA.

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