The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the Bombay High Court's observation about those interested in the protection and welfare of stray dogs, including feeding them, in Nagpur must adopt or put them up in dog shelter homes and bear expenses for their maintenance.
The top court directed the Nagpur Municipal Corporation to take steps for the general public to feed stray dogs at appropriate locations, demarcated and identified by them.
"You cannot insist that people who want to feed them must adopt them," the court observed orally during the hearing.
A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and J K Maheshwari also asked the public to ensure no nuisance is caused by feeding the stray dogs.
The bench said till the next date of hearing no coercive steps should be taken in pursuance of the October 20 order of the high court, which had ordered the imposition of a penalty of ₹ 200 for every breach.
The top court was hearing petitions challenging the high court order which said no citizen of Nagpur and areas surrounding it shall feed or make any attempt to feed stray dogs in public places, gardens, etc.
The top court asked the municipal corporation and Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) to file their responses and also take a stand on the directions given in the October 20 order.
"Till the next date of hearing, we deem it appropriate to stay the following observation:- 'If these so-called friends of stray dogs are really interested in the protection and welfare of the stray dogs, they must adopt the stray dogs, take home the stray dogs or at least put them up in some good dog shelter homes and bear all the expenses for their registration with municipal authorities and towards their maintenance, health and vaccination'," the bench said.
It said till the next date of hearing, it will be open to the municipal corporation to note down names and details of those creating a public nuisance by feeding stray dogs.
"Further, it will be open to the municipal corporation to also deal with the issue of nuisance caused by the stray dogs in accordance with law," the bench said.
The top court asked the lawyer appearing for the Nagpur Municipal Corporation as to whether the high court order on the aspect of feeding and adopting stray dogs is practical.
The counsel said she would take instructions and like to put in an affidavit on the aspect of feeding stray dogs.
Observing that the top court is not an expert body on this, the bench said it wanted to have the views of the municipal corporation as well as AWBI.
One of the advocates appearing in the matter said the civic body and AWBI can work together and offer a workable solution.
"In the meantime, we have to stay certain parts of the order," the bench orally observed, adding, "...we are not staying the order but do not take coercive steps." The bench clarified that the proceeding before the high court in the matter will continue.
It said the pleas would be heard along with a pending petition in the month of February next year.
The high court had on October 20 also directed that if any person is interested in feeding stray dogs, he shall first adopt it, bring it home, register it with the municipal authorities or put it in some dog shelter home and "then showering his love and affection on it, may feed it while taking its personal care in all respect".
In its order, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court had noted that in the past the authorities had taken certain steps in the direction of controlling the nuisance of stray dogs, but they were seen to be not enough to eliminate it or even reduce it.
"Accordingly, we direct in general that no citizen and no resident of Nagpur and areas surrounding it shall feed or make any attempt to feed the stray dogs in public places, gardens, etc. We further direct the Municipal Commissioner of Nagpur Municipal Corporation to ensure that no such feeding at any place except own homes of such persons shall be undertaken," the high court had said.
It had also directed the commissioner of the Nagpur Municipal Corporation to ensure no feeding of street dogs takes place anywhere except for the home of the dog feeder or in the dog shelter homes or any other authorised place.
"....we also direct him to impose an appropriate penalty for any breach of these directions, which penalty may not be more than of ₹ 200 for every breach as per the resolution already passed in this behalf by Nagpur Municipal Corporation," the high court had said.