The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Chimpanzee freed from circus

Chennai, Jan. 14: A chimpanzee, brought here from Kuwait 15 years ago to perform in a circus, has secured freedom from its dismal living conditions, thanks to Madras High Court.

The court today upheld the Animal Welfare Board of India’s power to make discreet inspections of circus animals to ascertain their health.

The court dismissed a petition by the Great Royal Circus, now performing here, seeking to quash a recent board directive that the the chimpanzee be “handed over” to the authorities.

The directive, under the Animals (Registration) Act, followed its refusal to issue the circus manager a “certificate of performance” for the chimpanzee.

After complaints about the dismal living conditions of the circus chimpanzee, the board had urged the Blue Cross of India — the second respondent in the case — to inspect the African ape’s health at the circus premises. When the Blue Cross submitted an “adverse report” on the chimpanzee’s condition, the board refused to issue the required certificate to the circus manager.

M. Pavithran, the petitioner who questioned the decision on behalf of the circus, alleged that the decision was biased and arrived at without a proper inquiry. He also told the court that no prior notice was given to the circus before the Blue Cross inspection.

Pavithran said an earlier occasion when the chimpanzee, brought from Kuwait in 1987 to perform in Jumbo Circus, was seized by the customs department and lodged at the National Zoological Park, New Delhi. The Supreme Court had then directed that the ape be handed over to the same petitioner (Pavithran).

“I have invested huge amount to establish this circus,” he said.

Justice P. Sathasivam, rejecting Pavithran’s argument, said it was mandatory for the circus to obtain a “certificate of registration” for “performing animals” from the Chennai-based Board, under the Animals (Registration) Rules 2001.

The Board’s power to inspect the condition of animals flowed from the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, the court said.

The Board’s decision declining registration was based on the findings of Blue Cross. The Blue Cross inspection report had clearly said that the chimpanzee was kept “tied in a cage by a chain, with one end round its neck with a lock and the other end tied to the cage bars”.

The cage was kept inside a tent at the “Great Royal Circus”, fully covered and without any ventilation. The animal was thus “excited and reacted violently by shaking the cage and spitting”, the judge quoted from the report.

So there was no valid ground to interfere with the conclusion of the Board, the judge ruled.

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