Calcutta High Court Orders That Ailing and Unfit Horses Not Pull Carriages at Victoria Memorial

Posted on by Shreya Manocha

A division bench of the Calcutta High Court led by the Hon’ble Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam, and the Hon’ble Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya is being praised by PETA India and all horse lovers for declaring that 16 horses found in appalling condition can not be forced to haul carriages at Victoria Memorial for the time being. The horses were found to be “unfit” by the Animal Resources Development Department (ARDD) of West Bengal at a medical inspection camp conducted in accordance with an order of the Calcutta High Court dated 11 April 2023. The order was passed with respect to petitions filed by PETA India and the CAPE Foundation seeking that the use of be prohibited. The court further directed the ARDD to consult with the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, the Kolkata Police (Hackney Department), the horse owners, and both petitioners in order to take the 16 suffering horses to a treatment facility. PETA India has offered to care for them at its facility in Kolkata, where they could receive expert equine veterinary care, treatment, and rest.

However, so far, only nine horses have been handed over to PETA India by horse carriage drivers. PETA India has submitted written concern to ARDD over the remaining horses who are likely being forced to ply in extreme deteriorated health.

Disgusted by the state of Kolkata’s “Victoria horses”, over 150 veterinarians appealed to Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee, requesting the prohibition of horse-drawn carriages. The veterinarians noted that the horses were forced to haul heavy loads of people on hard roads, conditions that lead to irreparable and irreversible leg and hoof problems that result in lameness.

Recently, following complaints from PETA India about the abuse and neglect of horses, the Animal Welfare Board of India directed Kolkata police and the Directorate of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services to conduct an urgent enquiry into cruelty to horses. The board noted that cruelty to animals is a violation of Section 3 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960, and a punishable offence under Section 11(1) of the PCA Act and Section 289 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

The Hon’ble Bombay High Court, through its judgement dated 8 June 2015, ruled that using horse-drawn carriages in Mumbai for “joyrides” is illegal. It noted that forcing horses to work on concrete and tar surfaces is harmful to their health and further found the conditions in which the horses were kept to be “pathetic”. Thereafter, on 3 April 2017, while dismissing a review petition filed by horse owners, the Bombay High Court firmly reiterated its decision. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, vide its order dated 6 February 2023, dismissed an appeal against the prohibition of horse-drawn carriages imposed by the Bombay High Court. Now, traditional-style e-carriages are used in Mumbai and preferred by tourists and carriage drivers alike.

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