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Uttarakhand HC: Blacklisting Irresponsible Handlers is the Effective Way to Curb Cruelty to Equines in Kedarnath Yatra

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Published on: 17 August 2023 at 09:25 IST

The Uttarakhand High Court has directed the State Government and District Magistrates to establish screening mechanisms aimed at safeguarding the well-being and safety of equines involved in the Kedarnath Yatra, Gauri Maulekhi v State of Uttarakhand and others.

To combat cruelty and mistreatment of these animals, the Court has stressed the necessity of blacklisting handlers and owners responsible for such acts. Additionally, the Court has instructed District Magistrates to ensure that only registered equines and handlers are permitted on the Yatra route, thereby preventing unauthorized entry.

The Bench, headed by Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and including Justice Rakesh Thapliyal, emphasized that irresponsible handlers and owners of equines need to face consequences for their actions in order to deter cruelty.

The court stated, the only effective way, in which cruelty to the Equines can be curbed, is by blacklisting such handlers/owners, who are found to be subjecting their Equines to cruelty and maltreatment.

The Court further directed the State to enforce the rule allowing only registered equines and handlers on the Yatra route while barricading any other routes to prevent unauthorized entry. The Court underscored the importance of deploying adequate police forces at these barriers to ensure compliance.

The Secretary of the Animal Husbandry Department (AHD) submitted affidavits detailing improvements in equine health, care, and management during the Kedarnath Yatra compared to the previous year, following the court’s previous order on July 24, 2023.

These affidavits revealed the establishment of a 30-member Mule Task Force to manage the equines and prevent cruelty. They also highlighted the imposition of 215 financial penalties on equine owners and the registration of 17 FIRs for animal cruelty.

The petitioner’s contention focused on the mistreatment of equines used to carry raw materials and equipment, often overloading them beyond their capacity and leading to cruelty or death.

The Court took note of these concerns and directed the presence of police at barriers to prevent unauthorized entry, emphasizing the importance of allowing equines to rest during the night and limiting them to a single trip per day on pilgrimage treks. The Court’s guidelines will extend to the Kedarnath, Yamunotri, and Hemkund Sahib Yatras.

The Court reiterated that the purpose of registering equines and handlers would be defeated if unregistered ones could bypass barriers unchecked.

This infiltration could disrupt the Yatra route and exceed the population limit of 5000 equines per day allowed by the administration.