Gauhati High Court has directed the Tamil Nadu government to allow a team of Assam government officials to “inspect” the health condition of an allegedly captive elephant within three days of receiving its order.
In a five-page order on Friday, Justice Suman Shyam, as an ad-interim measure, also directed the Tamil Nadu DGP that the team, currently camping in Chennai since September 3, is provided with adequate police protection.
The high court passed the interim order while acting on the writ petition filed by the Assam government this week “espousing the cause of an elephant named Joymala which is allegedly held captive in a temple” of Tamil Nadu.
Joymala was transported to Tamil Nadu from Tinsukia district of Assam on the basis of an NOC and transit pass issued by Assam on September 8, 2011, permitting the animal to be retained in the Nachiyar temple in Tamil Nadu’s Virudhunagar district for a period of three years.
However, after the expiry of the term of the no objection certificate (NOC), the elephant has not been returned to Assam.
“On the other hand, the petitioners have received information from reliable sources that the elephant in question has been meted out brutal treatment by the persons holding the animal in captivity. However, the officials under the state of Tamil Nadu are showing reluctance to render assistance in rescuing the elephant,” the court order said.
The Assam government had on September 2 sent a four-member team to Tamil Nadu to hold discussion with forest department officials there to “pave way” for the immediate return of nine captive elephants, including Joymala, being kept at various temples in the southern state after assessing their health condition.
One of the team members returned to Assam after a few days but rejoined the team on Sunday for Monday’s inspection.
Assam advocate general Devajit Saikia, in his submission before the court, said a high-level team constituted under the chairmanship of the additional principal chief conservator of forest, Assam, has been camping in Chennai so as to take a stock of the health condition of Joymala.
“However, due to complete lack of cooperation from the Tamil Nadu government officials, the team of Assam government officials has not been able to inspect the elephant till today,” Saikia submitted.
The court while passing its order also directed its registry to communicate the order to the respondents through electronic mode.
The decision to send the team followed reports about the “inhumane treatment” meted out to Joymala, especially a video was released by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India on August 26, showing a mahout torturing Joymala.
The Assam forest department has been in touch with its Tamil Nadu counterparts for over a year to get back Joymala, since rechristened Jeymalyatha by the temple authorities, but to no avail.
“Initially, the Tamil Nadu forest department had issued NOC for return of the elephant, and had also requested the Assam government to make payment of the cost for keeping the elephants in custody till their return back to Assam.”
“The Assam government had also agreed to bear such cost. However, since then, there has been no response from the departmental officials,” Saikia said in his submissions.
The elephant was handed over to the temple representatives by its owner Girin Mohan because he was finding its upkeep difficult.