The Delhi High Court Friday stayed lodging of FIR against animal rights activist Ambika Shukla for allegedly handing over three rescued Persian kittens to an authorised person and not to the owner despite a trial court order.
Justice Suresh Kumar Kait issued a notice to Delhi Police and asked it to file a status report within three weeks on a petition by Shukla, who is the sister of BJP MP Maneka Gandhi, seeking quashing of the trial court's two orders and the proceedings initiated against her.
"Till further orders, I hereby stay the registration of FIR against the petitioner (Shukla)," the judge said.
The high court also directed the concerned Deputy Commissioner of Police to file the report as per the April 13 direction of the magistrate before the trial court and thereafter before the high court, at least a week before the next date of hearing -- July 12.
Advocate Vijay Aggarwal, representing Shukla, informed the high court that on Thursday evening, barring the three Persian cats, all other 27 animals have been given to the IO and said that the three cats have died is false.
The high court questioned the petitioner for giving away the case property, the three cats, to some other person.
Aggarwal said the cats have not died and if police goes to the house of the woman to whom the cats were given, they can be recovered and she must have been refusing to return them as she might have developed a bond with them.
He said the petitioner was 61 years old and it was difficult for her to go to court and seek bail during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 30, an FIR was registered at Moti Nagar Police Station against the owner of a pet shop from where 30 animals- “six Persian cats, 15 white mice, eight hamsters and one love bird" were rescued from the possession of accused Javed Khan and they were seized and handed over to Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre (SGACC).
Shukla's petition, filed through advocates Hardik Sharma and Barkha Rastogi, said when one Sumedha Chopra, a long-time supporter of SGACC and previous director of the organization, learnt about the seizure of animals, she contacted the petitioner and urged her to allow her to foster the cats.
As three cats were quite young and were susceptible to infection, Shukla agreed to hand over them to Chopra on filling the requisite documents for fostering the cats.
However, she took the cats away without fulfilling the paperwork, the plea alleged.
When the pet shop owner approached the trial court for release of animals on superdari, it was allowed and the investigating officer (IO) was directed to release the animals to him, it said.
It added that the IO approached SGACC and 27 animals were there but three Persian kittens were not there as they were given away to the other woman. When the animals were not handed over, Khan approached the trial court seeking contempt action against the officials of SGACC and the magistrate sought appearance of Shukla.
On April 4, Shukla lodged a complaint with the DCP West regarding three Persian cats not being handed over back to SGACC by Chopra.
It said that on April 12, Shukla appeared in the trial court proceedings virtually and explained the cause of delay in releasing the animals to the owner.
However, the next day, the magistrate passed an order directing the SHO of Moti Nagar Police Station to lodge an FIR against the petitioner and the officials of SGACC to investigate into the alleged offences committed by them and file a compliance report on April 28.
The trial court had said that prima facie ingredients of offences under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant, causing disappearance of evidence of offences or giving false information to screen offender and punishment for criminal breach of trust are made out.
It had said that in view of the blatant abuse of the provisions of law by SGACC officials, the DCP concerned was directed to ensure that a copy of this order is served upon the AWB, through the Commissioner of Police or other senior police officers, so that it may also take cognizance of these activities of SGACC, for taking action under the Act and the relevant rules.
On receiving the same, it be filed by the DCP concerned before the trial court on April 28.