SC stays Bombay HC order on killing stray dogs

Pioneer News Service | New Delhi

The Supreme Court on Friday stayed a decision of the Bombay High Court that virtually allowed any stray canine to be killed for being a "nuisance".

Suspending the operation of the High Court order till January 29, the Bench of Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam issued notice on a petition filed by the Animal Welfare Board. The Board had challenged the HC decision of December 20 last on the ground that deciding which canine is a "nuisance" cannot be left to the discretion of the Municipal Commissioner, as held by the High Court, on a PIL filed by Goa-based NGO, People for Elimination of Stray Troubles.

Senior advocates Fali Nariman and TR Andhyarjuna who represented the Board, argued, "A dog cannot be exterminated because it barks." They asserted there are broad apex court guidelines for resorting to killing stray canines when it is rabid or mortally wounded or incurably ill.

The Bench observed that a canine may become a nuisance when it turns violent and attacks people. Nariman, however, argued that in such cases, the Corporation is required to sterilise such dogs than kill them.

As per municipal records, last year there were 70,182 dogs in Mumbai alone. The High Court had earlier ordered that all the stray dogs be shifted to a shelter at Palghar in neighbouring Thane district. However, the Municipal Corporation said it did not have enough funds.

Even the High Court had not defined what is nuisance but had made it clear that there can be no "mass killing" of dogs.

In a majority decision, the three-member Bench had suspended its verdict till January 29 for allowing the aggrieved parties to approach the apex court.

The Board in its appeal maintained that unless the term nuisance was not defined the order of the High Court could not be implemented. It even sought clarification of law in this regard as two sets of legislations existed on treatment of stray canines. The Animal Birth Control Rules (ABC rules) made under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 demanded killing only in cases of rabid, incurably ill or mortally wounded dogs. On the other hand, the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act gave discretion to the Commissioner in this regard.