For the birds, bees and other animals
On the morning of 27th October, 2023, Mumbaikars residing at Malabar Hill were shocked to be greeted by numerous signboards during their walks through the Priyadarshini Park (PDP). These signboards had been put up by the Malabar Hill Citizens Forum prohibiting people from feeding stray dogs and cats living in the park. These arbitrary signboards were placed after the Forum failed in designating a proper place for feeding such animals. While PDP is managed by the Forum, the ownership of PDP vests in the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation).
Residents of Malabar Hill and visitors of the PDP expressed shock at this overnight development. Sandip Vimadalal, a resident of Malabar Hill and an avid animal lover who frequently voluntarily feeds the stray cats and dogs living in the PDP expressed his surprise at the decision of the forum to prohibit all feeding of stray animals in the park. He said that “these animals do not leave the park area and have been happily living in the park without causing any trouble to anyone”. Vimadalal further remarked, “if such a blanket prohibition on feeding these animals is placed then it is nothing short of overt cruelty to these animals”. Majority of the park visitors voluntarily feed these animals in a small part of the park.
Stray dogs and cats have been peacefully living in PDP for many years and there have been no incidents of aggression from these animals towards anyone. Many residents of Malabar Hill have frequently fed the animals living in PDP at a common place for numerous years and have also taken care of their health. A resident of Malabar Hill has gone as far as to take a seriously injured cat to the veterinarian at his own expense and managed the and post treatment care by keeping the recovering cat at hi premises for 3 months.
These animals do not leave the PDP and are fed daily by the residents. Thus, it becomes extremely ludicrous for the Malabar Hill Citizens Forum to have put sign boards prohibiting the feeding of stray animals. This action of prohibition was taken completely arbitrarily by the management without consulting the residents of Malabar Hill or after taking views of the visitors of the park.
The Animal Birth Control Rules, 2023 passed by the Central Government and notified on 10th March, 2023 framed in exercise of powers conferred under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, mandates the Malabar Hill Citizens Forum to designate feeding spots along with designating an appropriate feeding time. However, instead of taking actions in furtherance of law, the Forum has acted in violation of law by arbitrarily placing sign boards all around PDP prohibiting everyone from feeding any stray animals.
The Central Government passed The Animal Birth Control Rules, 2023 which made it mandatory for a Residential Welfare Association or an Apartment Owner Association to designate feeding spots for stray animals along with designate the feeding times. Thereafter, in An order in March 2023, and a subsequent order in April 2023 the Bombay High Court held that the mandate of The Animal Birth Control Rules, 2023 needs to be strictly adhered by relevant association so that the rights of stray animals are recognized and they are not subjected to any cruelty.
The Bombay High Court further held that the need to designate feed spots as provided under The Animal Birth Control Rules, 2023, and that the relevant association cannot cause any impediment or any restraint preventing any animal lover from taking care of the stray animals or cause any cruelty and harassment to the animals, as also those who intent to take care of such animals. The Bombay High Court also held that hate towards stray dogs and treating them with cruelty can never be an accepted approach of a civil society, and such an act would be against the Constitutional ethos.
It is clear that it is the obligation of the Malabar Hill Citizens forum to follow The Animal Birth Control Rules, 2023 and designate feeding spots and feeding time. Instead of complying with legal provision, the forum has caused an impediment in taking care of stray animals and has put a blanket prohibition on those residents who voluntarily feed and take care of the stray animals living at PDP. The residents of Malabar Hill are unsure of what actions to further take as they were never consulted before the forum took such an action and as of now, their voices are falling on cold ears.
People often forget that animals and birds too have a right to be in the areas where they have lived for generations. It is not a right that human being alone can lay claim to.