Habeas corpus: India

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Does not extend to animals: SC

Dhananjay Mahapatra, January 10, 2020: The Times of India

NEW DELHI: The first-ever legal experiment to test the applicability of habeas corpus writ to locate an elephant failed as the Supreme Court on Thursday asked how such a writ, generally used to locate the whereabouts of a person in illegal detention, could be applied to animals.

CJI Bobde asked, β€œIs elephant a citizen of India? How does habeas corpus petition apply for animals? If we agree with your arguments, then a villager whose cattle is stolen by another can move the high court with a habeas corpus petition to recover his cattle from the illegal custody of others.”

Appearing before a bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, advocate Wills Mathews argued that since animals had right to life, as ruled by the SC while banning Jallikattu (bull running) on the ground of cruelty to animals, habeas corpus could be used by a mahout to locate elephant Laxmi.

Laxmi was in the news four months ago as Delhi Police on September 17 had claimed that they had arrested mahout Saddam, the petitioner before the SC, for allegedly stealing and hiding her. Saddam was released on bail by a Karkardooma court in east Delhi after spending 68 days in Mandoli jail.

Laxmi, allegedly recovered by police from Saddam, was sent to a rehabilitation centre. The SC asked the petitioner to move the HC where a custody battle over Laxmi is being fought.

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