High Court Orders Freedom for Captive Elephant Sunder
2014-04-07

The Economic Times
By Vijay Singh

Sunder


MUMBAI:
The Bombay high court on Monday passed a landmark judgment in favour of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India by directing the state government to release the captive elephant, Sunder, and put him in a proper sanctuary.

The high court passed this order seeking the implementation of the order dated August 21, 2012, passed by the Joint Secretary (Forests), Government of Maharashtra, to release the well-known and much abused young elephant Sunder to a sanctuary.

This decision will be supported by celebrities such as Paul McCartney, Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit, Pamela Anderson, Arjun Rampal, R Madhavan, Gulshan Grover* and many others who took to Twitter or helped in other ways with the campaign for his release.

The court allowed the writ petition filed by PETA and dismissed the appeal filed by the MLA Vinay Kore, who had given Sunder as a "gift" to the Jyotiba temple in Kolhapur. The court also refused to stay its order though the same was requested by the senior counsel representing Kore.

PETA was represented in the matter by Senior Counsel Shiraz Rustomjee and counsel Rohan Rajadyaksha who were instructed by M/s. K Ashar & Co Advocates & Solicitors who were on record for PETA.

Sunder is now slated to be transferred to Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (WRRC) in Bangalore. The elephant's beatings had been caught on videotape, and veterinarians and elephant experts who examined Sunder found him scarred and wounded and chained so tightly that he couldn't lie down.

The campaign for his release spanned 21 months as people in India and around the world worked to save him from his abusers. PETA India is now calling on Maharashtra Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Sarjan Bhagatto implement the court's order quickly before Sunder can be harmed again.

The Jyotiba temple came into possession of Sunder in 2007, but after constant chaining and beatings came to light, Maharashtra Minister of Forests Dr Patangrao Kadam (on August 21, 2012) and the Project Elephant division of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (on November 9, 2012) issued orders for Sunder's release to a sanctuary.

However, they were never carried out, and Sunder was then spirited away at the behest of Kore and hidden in an old poultry shed, where he remained chained.

In December 2013, PETA obtained new video footage showing that his mahout was violently beating him. Sunder has known physical abuse, chains, loneliness and misery for almost a decade,'' said Dr Manilal Valliyate, PETA India's director of veterinary affairs.

"We are grateful for the high court ruling calling for his release to a sanctuary.PETA is looking forward to seeing Sunder receive the care and respect that he deserves,'' he added.
 

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