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A single-judge bench comprising of Justice Sibo Sankar Mishra in a recent ruling held that cattle that are seized in animal cruelty cases cannot be given back to the accused owner.

The ruling came in a case whereas the petitioner challenged the legality and judicial propriety of the order passed by the District and sessions judge of Mayurbhanj, Baripada. 

The background of the case is as follows:

It is contended by the petitioner that a case was registered against the respondent under Section 279 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 11(1)(d)(e)(f) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Nine cattle were rescued during their unauthorized transportation in a goods carrier vehicle with license plate MH-40-BL-2759, which was not equipped with the necessary supplies of food, water, or medical attention. The animals were in such terrible and poor condition that it is further argued that the local police turned them over to the petitioner for immediate care, upkeep, and protection. Rule 3(a) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rule, 2017 was not followed in terms of health examination, identification, and marking of such animals. 

Meanwhile, the opposing party No. 3 filed a Criminal Misc. Case under Section 457 of the Code of Criminal Procedure before the learned Judicial Magistrate, First Class-1, Baripada, claiming to be the rightful owner and requesting the release of the animals. Nonetheless, the petition of the opposing party No. 3 was denied by the learned magistrate in a decision dated September 16, 2023. Aggrieved and dissatisfied, the opposing party No.3 filed Criminal Revision No. 28/2023 to the District and Sessions Judge, Mayurbhanj, Baripada. By the order dated November 1, 2023, which is contested in the current case, the revisional court granted the petition of the opposing party no. 3. 

The order was principally based on two points by the learned Sessions Judge. Firstly, as party number three is the acknowledged owner of the cattle, they have a right to temporary custody of the animals. Second, since the cattle were no longer needed for the investigation, they were ordered to be released in favour of Opposing Party No. 3. 

In his appearance on behalf of the petitioner, Mr. Sidharth Luthra, a learned senior counsel, claims that the petitioner has gotten documents from the competent authorities proving that the documents submitted by opposition party No. 3 to prove ownership of the cattle are fabricated. Therefore, the first ground on the basis of which the Revision Petition was allowed is not sustainable on facts. It was also argued that, the conduct of the opposing party no. 3 supports the petitioner’s contention that the cattle were illegally transported with the intention of slaughtering them.

The Court ruled in favor of the foundation, noting that it could only be concluded that the animals had suffered cruel treatment based on the actions of the defendants and the way the cattle were handled.

It added that, “The object of the PCA Act as discussed above is definitely offended by the conduct of the opposite party no.3 (accused). In the light of the aforementioned facts germinating from the record, the Revisional Court ought to have applied the principle while allowing interim custody of cattle to the opposite party No.3,” 

The High Court further pointed out that the revisional court had neglected to take into account the submission of forged documents to prove cattle ownership. It further stated that the purpose of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and its Rules had not been considered by the lower court.

“While considering the case of the present petitioner in the spirit of the object of the Act and by evaluating the facts scenario of the present case, this Court is of the prima facie view that in the interest and for the wellbeing of the cattle, the petitioner may have a superior right over the opposite party no.3 for getting interim zimma of the cattle,” the Court said.

Based on the observations made and the later revelation that the documents produced to prove the ownership of cattle were fraudulent, it thus set aside the District and Sessions Judge’s order and remanded the case to them for a new ruling.

CAUSE TITLE: Dhyan Foundation vs State of Odisha and Ors (CRLMC No.5310 of 2023)



Dhyan Foundation vs State of Odisha and Ors (CRLMC No.5310 of 2023)


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