Mumbai, India - August 21, 2016: People gather together to watch Mother Hippopotamus Shilpa with her newly born Hippopotamus cub at Jijamata Udyaan, Byculla in Mumbai, India, on Sunday, August 21, 2016. (Photo by Pratik Chorge/ Hindustan Times)(Pratik Chorge/HT PHOTO)
Mumbai, India - August 21, 2016: People gather together to watch Mother Hippopotamus Shilpa with her newly born Hippopotamus cub at Jijamata Udyaan, Byculla in Mumbai, India, on Sunday, August 21, 2016. (Photo by Pratik Chorge/ Hindustan Times)(Pratik Chorge/HT PHOTO)

HC directs SPCA to take custody of hippo confined with Asiad Circus management

Justice Prathiba M Singh noted that despite repeated directions, the proprietor of the circus Riazuddin Khan has failed to take a stand on the issue and has not disclosed the location of the male hippopotamus.
PTI, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 24, 2021 05:57 AM IST

The Delhi High Court Friday directed the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animal (SPCA) to immediately take the 9-year-old hippopotamus who has been illegally kept by the Asiad Circus management and place it in the zoo.

The high court also issued non-bailable warrants against the proprietor of Asiad Circus, whose licence had been revoked by the authorities in 2017, to ensure his presence at the next hearing on April 15.

Justice Prathiba M Singh noted that despite repeated directions, the proprietor of the circus Riazuddin Khan has failed to take a stand on the issue and has not disclosed the location of the male hippopotamus.

“Delhi SPCA to immediately take steps for seizure of hippopotamus from the circus or any other person. Security and assistance shall be provided by the police to the officials of SPCA team going for seizure of the animal,” the court said, asking SPCA to file a report after taking action.

It also directed the high court registry to give default notice to Khan’s advocate, who vakalatnama was on record as no one appeared to represent him in the case.

The court said if the hippopotamus is seized, it be temporarily placed in Delhi Zoo and if the animal is recovered from some other place and there is problem in transportation, he shall be placed in the local zoo there.

It also directed that authorities shall take care of the animal till further orders of the court and listed the matter for further hearing on April 15.

The high court was hearing a petition filed by the animals rights organisation, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in 2018, seeking immediate seizure of the male hippopotamus.

It said the hippopotamus was imported by the Asiad Circus company from Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park in Patna in February 2015 and was being trained to give "performance illegally" and treated with cruelty.

Advocate Aman Hingorani, representing PETA, submitted that the circus has been closed and the management is not likely to appear in the court.

The plea said the hippopotamus was forced to live a solitary life by the management of the Asiad Circus for entertaining people, far away from his parents who are in a biological park in Patna.

The high court had earlier issued notices to the Asiad Circus, Delhi government, Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), Animals Welfare Board and Central Zoo Authority on the plea which also sought that the animal be transferred back to the biological park where its parents are.

The average age of a hippopotamus is 40-50 years.

The petition has also sought direction to extend the role of the MoEF to frame rules for protection of exotic wild animals, including their exchange, transfer, acquisition and use, to reduce their sufferings.

It has said the animal was born in a zoo and was living with his parents and it was "cruel to separate" him from his family and forced to live a lonely life depriving the basic social life.

On receiving complaints that a hippopotamus was confined, the organisation conducted an investigation of the circus in September 2017 at Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh and in October, 2017 in Delhi.

It has mentioned in its investigation report that the lone hippopotamus was confined in an enclosure which did not meet the minimum space requirements and it was inhabitable, containing murky and filthy water in the tank.

It has also said that hippos are aggressive and keeping such an animal at a place like a circus could be a huge risk and threat to human lives.

"The Asiad Circus is apparently in violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act since it continues to exhibit, train and use animals for performances despite revocation of its registration certificate...," it has claimed.

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