The Delhi High Court Wednesday sought the response of the AAP government, its Forest Department and the Central Zoo Authority on a PIL seeking setting up of rescue centres in the national capital for wild animals in distress. A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao issued notices to the Delhi government, its Department of Forests and Wildlife, the Central Zoo Authority and the National Zoological Park here, seeking their stand on the plea by July 10.
The petition has been moved by animal rights activist Gauri Maulekhi, who has contended that there was "not a single wildlife rescue centre throughout the whole of Delhi, let alone a formalised system/channel to address distress calls of injured/dying wild animals, and an utter lack of any trained personnel on call for the same purpose, which has lead to the unfortunate and painful death of many wild animals". She has argued that this amounts to "severe inaction and abdication of constitutional and statutory duty" by the government authorities who are tasked with the responsibility of conservation and protection of urban wildlife in Delhi.
Her petition further claimed that the "complete apathy" of the Forest Department was evident from the fact that from 2008 to 2016, amounts ranging from Rs two lakh to Rs seven lakh were allocated each year to it for setting up shelters for wild animals, and each time, the funds were returned unutilised. This led to the budget outlay being scrapped after 2016, the plea said.
It also said that wildlife rescue centres are a common phenomenon across the country but there are none in the national capital despite "frequent instances of poaching, accidents and illegal hunting of wildlife in and around Delhi". "The respondents (Delhi government and other authorities) have a duty cast upon them under the Constitution of India, the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 to take measures towards the safeguard and welfare of all wildlife.
"However, despite many representations by the petitioner (Maulekhi), the respondents have willfully ignored their constitutional and statutory duty. As a result, till date there exists no wildlife rescue centre in Delhi with qualified veterinarians to tend to the animals, while there is also an overwhelming apprehension of the burgeoning illegal trade of wild animals which is not under check," the petition has said.
Maulekhi has also said that there is "desperate need for a synchronised action" between the various authorities to establish a wildlife rescue centre to treat wild animals in distress, as individuals and organisations often violate the law by keeping such wild animals in their own homes or in shelters meant for cattle or dogs etc., which is not permitted under the Wildlife Protection Act.
(With inputs from agencies.)