New Delhi: The Supreme Court today said it would examine the legal question as to whether the 2001 Dog Rules, framed by the Centre, would prevail over the state laws meant to curb the menace of stray canines.
The apex court also expressed unhappiness over increasing cases of dog bites in Kerala and asked the state government to take steps to ensure that such cases are checked.
“The chief secretary shall file a status report on dog bites in four weeks,” a bench comprising Justice Dipak Misra and Mohan M Shantanagoudar said and wondered as to why such cases were more prevalent in Kerala.
The bench said the key issue to be decided was whether the Dog Rules, 2001, framed by the central government under the mandate of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 would override state laws on curbing the menace of lethal stray canines.
It referred to the divergent views of various High Courts saying some have favoured state legislations over the Central Dog Rules and others have a contrary view.
The Dog Rules were framed in line with the Animal Birth Control programme of WHO which provide that instead of culling the dogs, they should be sterilised and immunised.
At the outset senior advocate V Giri, representing Kerala, said Justice S S Jagan committee have been considering and deciding on the claims of the victims of dog bites and so far, 154 such claims, out of total 752, have been decided.
Eighteen compensation claims have already been settled, he said adding that the state government has asked District Panchayats to earmark 2-3 acre plots in every panchayats to set up of “dog zoos”.
The court asked the Kerala government to take action on the reports of the Justice Jagan committee on award of compensation to dog bite victims.
Senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing for one of the parties, said it would not help as the dogs should not be displaced but should be sterilised and immunised.
Another lawyer said the natural rights of dogs cannot take precedence over the fundamental rights of humans and referred to a figure that in the recent past 1.16 lakh persons have suffered dog bites, of whom 20 had died.
The bench fixed the batch of pleas for hearing on September 15.
Earlier, the court had asked Kerala government to respond to a plea seeking setting up of dog pounds in the state to prevent stray canines from attacking people and livestock.
The application had said that catching and sheltering stray dogs in such pounds, would reduce the incidents of attacks by the canines. Pounds are enclosures maintained by public authorities to confine stray or homeless animals.
The petitioner, Sabu Stephen, has submitted a proposal for stray dog pounds in order to make the roads and public places free of stray dogs.
The application was filed in a batch of petitions by various NGOs and individuals being heard by the apex court, which has set up a panel headed by former Kerala High Court judge S S Jagan to inquire into the incidents of common people and children killing stray dogs and the support rendered to this by several vigilante groups in the state.
The panel, in an interim report, had said that more than one lakh people in Kerala have been bitten by dogs in 2015-16 and warned that frequent stray dog attacks on children there have created a dangerous situation.
Subsequently, the apex court in November last year had restrained vigilante groups in Kerala from imparting training to children and distributing air guns to people at subsidised rates to kill stray dogs and publically propagate that there was a “war” against canines in the state.
The Centre had earlier, in an affidavit, said, that “involvement of various agencies/departments at the central and state level, more particularly at the state level, was required in the proper and effective control and management of stray dogs as per ABC Rules implemented by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI).