Releasing of elephants to claimants suspended: CA says court is mindful of cruelty to elephants | Sri Lanka News

While recognising the rights and sentientness of elephants in the country, the Court of Appeal on Friday (25) issued an interim orders preventing the release of elephants back to their original claimants who are suspected of having committed offences under number of statutory laws.

Court of Appeal two-judge-bench comprising Justices Sobhitha Rajakaruna and Dhammika Ganepola observed that the Court is 

mindful when it is dealing with a sensitive matter pertaining to cruelty to elephants since elephants are not able to express themselves like human beings and to raise objections.

The Court of Appeal made this order and remarks when the four writ petitions filed challenging the legality of an extraordinary gazette notification issued to regularise the registration of tamed elephants were taken up for argument.

The Court of Appeal was informed that as requested by Attorney General, the Chief Magistrate's Court had issued an order releasing all the remaining elephants back to the individuals that were suspected of keeping them illegally. 

President's Counsel Sanjeeva Jayawardena with Counsel Prashanthi Mahindaratne, Dilumi De Alwis and Lakmini Warusevitane appearing for the petitioners informed court that the impugned regulations will effectively remove the strong legal protection extended to Elephants by the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance. Sanjeewa Jayawardena PC further said the Impugned regulations cunningly seek to regularize the illegal possession of elephants, by those who have forcibly taken elephants from the wild or who have bought such poached elephants and also those who have forcibly held elephants without licensing them or registering them.

He further submitted that the elephants who are in the custody of such miscreants, had been seized by the Police and the miscreants had been arraigned before the Magistrates Court, some elephants had been released to the illegal holders, using these wrongful regulations, apparently in order to regularize these illegal holdings.

The Court of Appeal had earlier issued an interim order restraining the Director General of Wildlife Conservation Department Grant from registering all elephants in terms of the new regulations challenged in Courts.

The Court of Appeal had further directed the Pinnawela Elephants Orphanage, Udawalawe Elephants Transit Home and the Ridigama Safari Park, not to relinquish custody of these elephants.

Mr. Jayawardena stated that contrary to the interim order issued by the Court of Appeal, three more elephants had been released to those whose names appeared in the B reports filed by the Police in the Magistrate’s Court. Upon verification of this by the Court from the Registrar of the Court of Appeal through the Registrar of the Chief Magistrate’s Court, Court of Appeal issued a further interim order, directing the Registrar of the Chief Magistrate’s Court as well as the Director General of Wildlife, and also the custodians of the Pinnawala Orphanage, the Udawalawe Transit Home and the Ridigama national park, not to implement the Order that had been made in the Magistrate Court to release these three elephants, until the 5th of December.

These writ petitions had been filed by Centre for Eco-Cultural Studies, Justice for Animals Sri Lanka and Centre for Environmental Justice.

President's Counsel Romesh de Silva and Senior Counsel Ravindranath Dabare appeared for other petitioners. (Lakmal Sooriyagoda)

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