Calcutta High Court Orders That Unlicensed Horse Carriages Be Seized, Observes West Bengal Government Has ‘Turned a Blind Eye’ to Horses’ Plight

Posted on by Erika Goyal

In a just-released order, a bench of the Calcutta High Court comprised of Hon’ble Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam and Hon’ble Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya directed the West Bengal government to inspect all horse-drawn hackney carriages in Kolkata and immediately seize all unlicensed carriages. The court also noted the condition of the horses is “not up to the mark” and directed that the Department of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services conduct another health check of the horses.

The court’s directives come after it expressed concern over the state government’s failure to enforce existing licensing and animal welfare laws, stating that “it appears that the authorities have turned a blind eye to the said issue”. The court further directed the state government to provide an explanation for the delay in implementing its own undertaking in June 2022 that proper medical treatment would be rendered to lame, sick, weak, and pregnant horses, noting that extremely heavy carriages add to the animals’ burden and may render them unfit for any activity. PETA India has offered to rehabilitate seized horses so they receive the needed expert equine veterinary care, treatment, and rest.

A health inspection of horses at the Maidan was conducted in September 2022 by a court-appointed committee consisting of the Animal Resources Development Department, the Animal Welfare Board of India, a representative of PETA India and CAPE Foundation (the petitioners), and a representative of the horse owners. Through a report dated 12 September 2022, the committee unanimously observed that all the horses inspected were suffering from some form of ailment and that unfit horses ought not to be commercially exploited for tourist rides.

Recently, police registered a first information report for an incident where a horse forced to haul a tourist carriage dropped dead in front of police and the public, causing panic and traffic chaos near Chandni Chowk metro station in KolkataL. The tragedy takes the count to six horses who have died in recent months in the city: most were worked to death, and one was impaled on a fence at the Maidan. This figure only includes the deaths made public – the actual death toll could be much higher.

Meanwhile, over 150 veterinarians have appealed to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, requesting the prohibition of horse-drawn carriages. The veterinarians noted that the horses are 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.

Following complaints from PETA India about the abuse and neglect of horses, in April 2023, 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 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”. The decision was reiterated when the Hon’ble Bombay High Court dismissed a review petition filed by horse owners in 2017. And 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.

Join PETA India in requesting that suffering horses in Kolkata be replaced with beautiful motorised e-carriages, following the lead of Mumbai.

Help End the Use of Horses In Kolkata