In a move that could see bring the city’s famed Victoria horse carriages back on the road, the Bombay high court on Thursday suggested that the state consider framing a new policy permitting the carriages — banned by another bench two years ago — from plying only as “joyrides” or for the purpose of “entertainment” on fixed stretches.
A bench of justice VM Kanade and justice AS Gadkari observed that the ban imposed on Victorias in June 2015 was based on the premise that the carriages were being used as a mode of conveyance in contravention of the provisions for public conveyance under the Bombay Public Act 1920. However, if the carriages were restricted for the purpose of entertainment, and it was ensured they do not create any traffic or law and order menace, there would be no illegality.
The bench, however, said in case the state did look into the suggestion, it must also ensure that provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act are strictly adhered to.
“We are taking a slight departure from the June 2015 judgment. The government and the BMC need not stop horse carriages from plying altogether. It can be still used as joyrides for entertainment purposes and as a tourist attraction. But then the authorities will have to carry out regular inspection to see that the horses are taken care of, are well fed and given adequate rest,” Kanade said. “Such an arrangement will be good for the horse carriage owners and operators too. Some balance can be created. Separate policy or rules can be framed, permitting them to be used for joyrides, but only if the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act are followed for our main concern here is the welfare of the animals,” the bench said.
The bench was hearing a plea filed by a city-based NGO against the exploitation of animals for commercial purposes.
In June 2015, a division bench led by Justice AS Oka had directed the BMC and the state to stop all horse carriages from plying in the city, observing that they were “illegal” and that they “violated the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.” It had also asked the state to rehabilitate those affected by the ban.
On Thursday, the state government informed the court its policy for rehabilitation of 221 families including 91 carriage owners and 130 operators was “ready” and will be placed before the Cabinet “soon.”
The state said it had decided to grant the affected persons hawking licences.
The court, however, said the state must also consider giving them auto and taxi permits instead.