(Featured Image Courtesy: fablefeed.com)

297A06FD00000578-3117009-image-a-43_1433861660552On 8th June 2015, the Hon. High Court of Bombay pronounced its judgement that ‘the activity of running carriages and/or ‘victorias’ driven by the horses in the city of Mumbai for joyrides is completely illegal and the same is required to be stopped’. The Public Interest Litigation No. 36/2011 filed by ‘Animals and Birds Charitable Trust‘ wanted the use of horses for carriages and joy rides to be prohibited in the City of Mumbai.

Gaudy and magnificent horse carriages were plying the streets of erstwhile Bombay since colonial days. Probably because these open carriages were styled during Queen Victoria’s period, they were called ‘Victorias‘. They were once used as a mode of transport to the affluent ‘Bombayites‘. As the automobiles took over the streets, ‘Victorias‘ slowly withdrew to the outskirts of Colaba, Marine Drive, Taj Mahal Hotel and Gateway of India. They re-invented themselves as joy-ride cars for the tourists. Be it Bombay or Mumbai, these Victorias became part of its daily life. Tourists and visitors to the city always wanted a ride on Victorias to see the magnificent city.

297A06DA00000578-3117009-image-a-34_1433861640720But things were not that easy for the horses. They pulled the carriages, gave the tourists some beautiful moments and earned bread for their masters. According to the animal activists of the city, these horses were often neglected and their stables remain sub-standard and un-hygienic. They found those horses often malnourished and were denied of rest. The animals were never given adequate drinking water or feed. Veterinary care was alien to them. There were several instances of the exhausted horses collapsing and many suffering from traffic accidents. The injured animals never received proper medical support and they were further subjected to heavy work. The issues were taken to the court by ‘Animals and Birds Charitable Trust’. Many other animal welfare organizations as PETA, PFA, IDA joined them.

297A06E500000578-0-image-a-33_1433860837181They wanted to prohibit the horse carriages plying the Mumbai city roads. These organizations provided the court with ‘evidences of cruelty’ to the animals, poor health care and filthy stables. According to the petitioners, these carriages violated traffic rules often. The City Police reportedly booked the owners and imposed fine on them several times, but the violations and offenses went on unabated. Hence a partial ban on the carriages will be futile, they submitted.

According to IDA, 64 to 119 cases of wounds and injuries were reported during the period from January to July 2009.  Dr Nilesh Bhamre, a veterinarian, submitted that ‘87% of the horses suffered from lameness and abnormalities, 80% from hoof problems and 77 % from wounds’. The SPCA is reported to have registered ’96 cases of cruelty against the horses in 2010′.

And the court too observed that the horses of Mumbai suffered from serious illnesses. “We hold that the use of
horse-driven carriages/victorias in the city of Mumbai for joy rides is completely illegal. We direct the state Government to come out with a scheme for rehabilitation of the families of those who are associated with the business of running carriages driven by horses in the city of Mumbai for joy rides”, Jusices A S Oka andA K Menon said in the 55 page order pronounced on 8th June 2015.

Victoria-copy-1024x467The Court directed that all stables to be closed down after a year. The State Government was asked to formulate schemes to rehabilitate the horses too. The High Court said that the State Government shall be free to consider the proposals of any animal welfare organization to take care of the animals. A compliance report has to be submitted in January 2016 before the High Court.ll . (Read the full JudgementntJudgement-on-Horse-Carriage_Bombay-High-Court_8-June-2015 )

As the E-mail ID of the first petitioner, ‘Animals and Birds Charitable Trust’ was not traceable, we sent mails to other organizations as PETA, PFA and IDA to reveal their plans to rehabilitate the would-be abandoned horses. They were also asked if they have any plans to adopt any such horses. It is regrettable that none of these organizations cared to answer the questions.

8474fe10-4f2e-41fa-8eaf-717edfa05e66Wallpaper2It is reported that the horse and stable owners plan to move the Supreme Court of India against the High Court verdict. In the affidavit filed before the High Court, they submitted that one of the petitioners in the case has ‘business and construction interests’. The horse and stable owners alleged vested interests behind the petition to ban the carriages. A slum re-development scheme is proposed in South Mumbai where a stable is located and also they feared that the land of one of the animal hospitals will be handed over to a real-estate developer. Though this contention was noted, The High court didn’t make any comments on the issue.

Incidentally, the ‘Animals and Birds Charitable Trust‘, the main petitioner in this case is run by Neeru Mittal, wife of Ashok Mittal of the Litolier group. According to a report appeared in ‘the Hindu‘ dated 18 April 2009, the Litolier group opened its first hotel, Ramada Plaza in New Delhi. The group then announced its plans to build a new hotel with 350 rooms in Mumbai within two years and said they are holding talks with international hospitality groups on that.

While Mumbai wanted its horse-drawn carriages to disappear, the big cities around the globe are still using them to attract tourists. Switzerland Tourism invites tourists to experience the horse drawn carriages to take the tourists around. Though some protests by animal activists were taking place, no cities banned them completely. UntitledAn instance of cashing on the emotions of the animal activists to ban horse-carriages in New York city was brought to light by ‘the Blaze’. In its report on 7 January 2014, ‘the Blaze’ said “and here’s something interesting from an anti-carriage brochure circulated in 2008: “Currently, the stables consist of 64,000 square feet of valuable real estate on lots that could accommodate [sic] up to 150,000 square feet of development. These lots could be sold for new development.”

There are enough laws in the country to prevent cruelty against animals. And enough agencies are there to enforce them. Traffic rules of the country are enough to book any offender. And the Police is more than enough to do it. e4a1dbbd-6a75-454b-909d-deb145d326a8Wallpaper2Running business without proper licenses is a crime and is punishable. Vigilant licensing authorities can effectively curtail the offences.  The will of the concerned agencies alone can enforce the laws, book the offenders and punish the guilty. Then the big question remains: why this blanket ban on the horse-carriages?

The horses, though not treated well, are now looked after by their owners may just be for monetary reasons. And once the horses are out of business, who will look after them?  Will it be the state Government who can’t even enforce the law of the land or the animal activists who remain silent to our questions on rehabilitation?

(Images: dailymail.co.uk,  newsnanny.com)