New Delhi, July 10: The Supreme Court today directed the chief secretary of Kerala to file an affidavit on steps being taken to tackle the stray dog menace that according to some people led to 1.16 lakh dog-bite cases in the state over the past year.
Twenty of these cases are said to have been fatal.
The bench gave the bureaucrat four weeks to file the affidavit and also recorded an undertaking from senior advocate V. Giri, who appeared for the Kerala government, that the state has decided to set aside two to three acres in every panchayat division for shelters for strays.
Justices Dipak Misra and M. Shantanagounder said the bench would interpret the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960, and also municipal and panchayat laws to determine if local authorities could eliminate stray dogs.
While the PCA Act mandates birth-control measures to curb the rising population of strays, the municipal laws justify killing such dogs if they become a menace to residents.
Some high courts, such as those in Kerala and Karnataka, have held that municipal laws prevail over the PCA Act. But others, like the high courts in Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, have said the 1960 Act prevails over local laws.
In the top court, which has been dealing with a batch of petitions on the problem of strays in Kerala, some petitioners like Sabu Stephen had sought elimination of such dogs on the ground that they posed a serious threat to people.
But the Animal Welfare Board of India and rights activists had complained about indiscriminate killing of strays by self-styled vigilante groups in the state.
The activists had also submitted names of various organisations and individuals who had given a call to the people to kill stray dogs.
The bench today accepted an unconditional apology tendered by Jose Maveli, the leader of one such vigilante group, for defying the top court's earlier orders that strays could be culled only in accordance with the law.
According to one estimate, Kerala has nearly 3.5 lakh stray dogs. Relatives of some dog-bite victims say strays mauled nearly two dozen people, including three women, to death and injured several thousand over the past year.