In a significant ruling, the Orissa High Court has upheld the principles of animal welfare by denying interim custody of seized cattle to the accused owner in a case of alleged cruelty under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act). The court, presided over by Justice SS Mishra, emphasized the potential risk of further cruelty by the accused and entrusted the interim custody of the cattle to a neutral body to ensure their safety.
Legal Analysis:
The High Court’s decision stemmed from a petition filed by the Dhyan Foundation, challenging a sessions court’s order to release the seized cattle to their owner accused of cruelty. Justice SS Mishra reasoned that granting custody to the accused, who allegedly violated provisions of the PCA Act, could lead to further mistreatment of the animals. The court emphasized the need for a neutral body to safeguard the welfare of the cattle during the pendency of the case.
Key Arguments:
Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra, representing the Dhyan Foundation, argued that the documents establishing ownership of the cattle were forged, casting doubt on the legitimacy of the accused’s claim. Luthra underscored the paramount importance of considering the well-being and protection of the animals when deciding their custody. The State supported these submissions, aligning with the foundation’s stance on animal welfare.
Judicial Observations:
In its judgment, the High Court criticized the sessions court for overlooking crucial factors, including the submission of fake documents by the accused and the overarching objectives of the PCA Act. The court highlighted the significance of evaluating the facts of the case in the spirit of the Act’s principles and ensuring the welfare of the animals.
Implications and Remand:
The Orissa High Court’s decision sets a precedent for prioritizing animal welfare in cases of alleged cruelty. By remanding the matter back to the sessions court for a fresh decision, the court underscores the importance of considering all relevant factors, including the authenticity of documents and the well-being of the animals, in determining custody.
In conclusion, the Orissa High Court’s ruling represents a triumph for animal welfare and underscores the judiciary’s commitment to upholding the principles of justice and compassion. By denying custody to the accused and entrusting the interim custody of the cattle to a neutral body, the court sends a strong message against cruelty towards animals and reaffirms the significance of their protection under the law.

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