The Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the Maharashtra government and its animal husbandry department to reply to a plea challenging a April 29 government resolution (GR) that allowed cases lodged against persons accused of organising “illegal” bullock cart races to be withdrawn based on the recommendations of a regional committee headed by the police commissioner.
Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Abhay Ahuja were hearing a PIL filed by animal rights activist Ajay Marathe, seeking that the GR — issued after the Supreme Court lifted a ban on bullock cart races — be quashed.
The GR sought the formation of the regional committee, which would recommend the cases that are to be withdrawn, following which the public prosecutor would approach the concerned court seeking withdrawal of cases.
The plea claimed that while it is expected from the public prosecutor to take decisions on a case-to-case basis and based on various factors, including the severity of the crime and its impact on the society, as per GR, the prosecutor would merely seek directions from the court “without any application of mind” and the same is against the law.
Subscriber Only Stories
The PIL claimed that the GR is against Section 321 (withdrawal of prosecution) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and Supreme Court guidelines. “If the offenders are let go without prosecution and (remain) unpunished, the instances of cruelty against animals and violation of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act… will increase further and defeat the purpose of the Act…” according to Ajay Marathe.
Government Pleader PP Kakade told the HC that the state has issued a corrigendum in the GR, which stipulated that the public prosecutor would take appropriate decisions as per Section 321 of CrPC.
The HC noted that the corrigendum prima facie does not take care of petitioner’s grievance and sought affidavits in reply from the state within three weeks. Seeking rejoinder from the petitioner by January 6, the HC posted the next hearing to January 12.