Revisit decision on culling of birds: HC suggests to Maharashtra dist
The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay high court has asked the authorities to consider all aspects before deciding to cull thousands of birds in poultry farms in Nandurbar district of Maharashtra amid the bird flu scare. At the same time, the court refused to intervene in the petition filed by two farm owners challenging a February 12 order passed by the authorities directing them to cull their birds and destroy the eggs. They called the decision arbitrary by stating that their own farms were at least a kilometre away from the affected ones.
Representing the farm owners, advocate SP Brahme informed the division bench of justices SV Gangapurwala and Shrikant Kulkarni that repeated tests were conducted on their farms but all of them turned out negative. “In such a scenario, the authorities could not have directed culling of the birds as the possibility of infection spread was nil,” said Brahme. He added that said poultry farms were sealed on February 4 and samples were also taken for testing on February 17 and a report was awaited.
Referring to the Prevention and Control of Infectious and Contagious Diseases in Animals Act, 2009, Brahme drew the attention of the bench to the fact that culling of the infectious birds or animals was a last resort and it was contemplated only for infected ones and not for other birds. He added that declaring a 2.5km radius as infected area would mean losses to the petitioners.
Opposing the petition, assistant government pleader PK Lakhotiya submitted that 21 poultry farms around that of the petitioners were infected with bird flu. He added that farms within a distance of 2.5 km from infected poultry farms were declared infected zone and up to 10 kms was declared as surveillance zone.
Disposing of the petitions, the bench said, “The authorities certainly would benefit from advice of the experts in the particular field and the authorities would be guided by the same. The court cannot substitute its views in place of the experts’ views.” The bench added that the authorities may revisit the decision of culling birds. “After considering all the aspects of the matter, may proceed with such steps as would appear to be proper for the spread of infection. The decision would solely rest with the authorities.”