Supreme Court orders status quo on cock fights in Andhra

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New Delhi/Hyderabad, Jan 12 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday directed status quo to be maintained on the traditional cock fight games during the Sankranti festival in Andhra Pradesh.

Asking the Andhra Pradesh High Court to review the case and hear all sides, including the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), a division bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justice A.K. Sikri ruled that the status quo be maintained till the high court finally disposes of the matter.
The apex court order came as it set aside the Dec 29, 2014 order of Andhra Pradesh High Court, which directed police to take action against those organising cock fights with betting, sale of liquor, gambling and subjecting animals and birds to cruelty during the festival from Jan 10 to Jan 16.
The apex court order was interpreted by both the litigant who challenged the high court order and the AWBI and other animal lovers as victory of their arguments.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Raghurama Krishnam Raju and two others, who had challenged the high court order banning the cock fights, claimed that the Supreme Court has given green signal to the traditional game.
However, the AWBI has clarified that the ban on cock fights is still in force and any violation will amount to contempt of court.
The AWBI, which comes under central environment and forests ministry has requested Andhra Pradesh Police to ensure that no cock fights are held in the state during Sankranti festival.
The board, in its letter to state police chief said the Supreme Court directed the high court to re-hear and pass detailed order in the light of the apex court’s landmark May 7, 2014 judgment in the matter of AWBI vs A. Nagarajana and others.
The order had banned bull fighting, bullock-cart races and others sports cruel to animals.
The board said Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 makes it a punishable offence if any person solely with a view to provide entertainment incites any animal to fight or bait any other animal.
Gauri Maulekhi, an animal welfare activist, who had impleaded in the case, said cock fight enthusiasts who knowingly attempt to misinterpret the order and mislead any authority into allowing cock fight will be committing serious contempt of court.
Senior counsel Anand Grover said he prayed to the court that no cock fight should be held in the meantime and in response to this, the court directed that status quo should be maintained.
Gauri, a representative of Humane Society International, India, said cock fighting has been prevalent in the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh during Sankranti where betting and gambling worth more than Rs.500 crore takes place.
The BJP leader and others had challenged the high court order on the ground that cock fights are part of tradition and culture. They argued that without this, the festival will lose its significance.
The petitioners claimed that the ban will also affect the revenues which the state gets from visitors including NRIs during the festival. According to them during 2012-13, nearly 3,452 NRIs came to these district and spent nearly Rs.600 crore to see the cock fights and during 2013-14 nearly 3,561 NRIs came and spent nearly Rs.634 crore.
Powerful politicians of all hues, celebrities and businessmen, participate in the betting. The fights between the specially bred and trained cocks are organised in fields as thousands watch them. Three to four inch knives are attached to the cocks’ legs and the fight continues till the death of one of the two cocks in each round.
Though police deny the permission for conduct of the fights, the organisers always have the last laugh thanks to the support from powerful politicians. Every year, police seize specially bred cocks and money in different places but it continues to thrive due to political patronage.
The legislators say since the cockfights are part of the culture, they have to respect the people’s sentiments.

Last modified: January 12, 2015