The Madras High Court has directed the principal chief conservator of forests and the chief wildlife warden to immediately take possession of a female elephant allegedly being used for begging by the wife of a mahout.
The division bench, comprising Justices S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad, ordered the official to either keep the 34-year-old elephant in a camp or transport it to a zoo, in accordance with the law.
The bench gave the direction on a petition from S Muralidharan, who sought a direction to 'remove' the elephant from the custody of the woman, Indira, the wife of the mahout of the Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple.
The court said the material on record showed that the caretakers of the elephant had paid Rs 25,000 fine imposed on them by the chief conservator of forests and cases were registered against them.
It noted that the ownership certificate had not yet been transferred to the woman.
"The material on record further indicates that various provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the Tamil Nadu Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules, 2011 have been violated."
The court noted that the woman had not denied that the elephant was used for any marriage functions.
The petitioner submitted that the elephant, 'Malachi', was originally owned by one Masan, a resident of Rangat, North and Middle Andaman district in the Andamans.
Masan had handed over the elephant to Indira on September 17, 2007, to be offered as a gift to the famous Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai.
However, the elephant was not handed over to the shrine and was instead used for begging and parading in marriage functions, among other things, the petitioner alleged.
He alleged that ever since the elephant was brought here from the Andamans in 2007, it was subjected to several cruelties and not taken care of properly.
Muralidharan said the elephant was made to walk on roads and both her front and back legs were tied using heavy chains in such a way that it could not run or walk freely.
He also alleged that the mahout, while riding the elephant some time back had come in contact with an overhead electrical wire, was thrown off and had died. The pachyderm too suffered burn injuries, but was not taken care of, he said
The petitioner said he moved the court as there was no response to his representations to the principal chief conservator of forests.