Constitution comes to the rescue of captive elephant (State of Chattisgarh, India)


Ejaz Kaiser, The New Indian Express

Date Published

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RAIPUR: An elephant named Sonu might just get to go home after nearly two years in the captivity of the forest department of Chattisgarh. But it needed the judiciary and the Constitution to secure its freedom.

The High Court here has taken exception to the forest department’s poor treatment of the animal and its reluctance to release it back in the wild.

Sonu has been kept chained since December 2015. The forest department was reluctant to release him into the forest, citing the jumbo’s past of killing five persons and damaging homesteads and crops while in the wild.

The case of Sonu went right up to the Chhattisgarh High Court with a petitioner filing a public interest litigation seeking a directive to let Sonu free. 

Saurabh Dangi, lawyer for the petitioner, told  New Indian Express, “Since being taken into captivity, Sonu has been kept chained, resulting in serious injuries to his feet. After a reassessment of its health status, our plea to the court is to free the elephant from human control and release it back into the forest.”

A High Court bench headed by chief justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan and justice S K Gupta said it appreciated the effort of the petitioner in highlighting the grievances caused to Sonu “who couldn’t himself have invoked any provision of the Constitution and the laws to seek relief from any court”.

In passing an order to the forest department, the judges referred to Article 48A of the Constitution which mandates the state to endeavour to safeguard the wildlife of the country and to clause (g) of Article 51A binding every citizen to have compassion for all living creatures.

“Homo sapiens form just one of the multifarious species which are entitled to occupy the earth and Homo sapiens without humanism are unworthy of being called human beings,” the judges said.