“Feeding stray dogs is not a crime”: Mumbai Court clears duo arrested, humiliated for feeding dogs

Today’s Mumbai  Mirror reports this heartening news, as reported by their correspondent Yogesh Sadhwani:

Court clears duo arrested, humiliated for feeding dogs

Sanjeev Dighe (pictured) and Yatin Mhatre were paraded around, ostensibly to show other residents what happened to people who fed strays (Courtesy Mumbai Mirror_2nd April 2012)

Two animal lovers from Thane, who were arrested and humiliated two years ago after a stray dog they used to feed allegedly bit a resident, have finally been acquitted, with a magistrate court ruling that feeding strays was not a crime.

The order provides welcome relief for animal lovers in the city, many of whom are pulled up by their housing societies for taking care of strays. Only recently, well-known director Partho Ghosh had a quarrel with his society management when he was fined Rs 1000 in his maintenance bill for feeding two stray dogs. His family, incidentally, had been taking care of them since they were pups.

This order is only the first victory for Sanjeev Dighe and Yatin Mhatre, who are fighting a separate case in High Court against the State and the police for handcuffing them and parading them around their society. In this, they are being represented by Mahesh Jethmalani and have the backing of, among others, Maneka Gandhi.

For Dighe, a commercial artist, and Mhatre – both residents of Lok Puram complex in Thane – the nightmare started on September 20, 2009. The duo had been feeding strays in their locality for several years, something that had led to many altercations with society members. Dighe says the residents believed this would lead to an increase in the stray dog population in the area.

That night, Dighe was getting ready to go out and feed the strays around 10.45 pm when a posse of cops arrived in a private vehicle and asked him to accompany them to Vartak Nagar Police Station. Mhatre accompanied him there, and a few hours later, the duo were booked under Section 289 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with animals in a particular person’s care attacking someone.

The next morning, both were handcuffed and taken to their society, where they were paraded around, ostensibly to show other residents what happened to people who fed strays. They were then taken to a holiday court, which released them on bail.

In a recent order, Jaishree Poonawala, judicial magistrate first class, remarked that “feeding stray dogs is not a crime”, adding that strays were not the same as pets and certainly not the sole responsibility of those who feed them.

“After our arrest, Maneka Gandhi personally got involved and helped us file the petition in HC through Mahesh Jethmalani,” said Dighe.

This order itself has come as a huge relief to Mhatre and Dighe. “Finally justice has prevailed. Several people like me are often victimised by residents who do not like others feeding strays. We hope this order will help others like us,” said Dighe.

Ajay Marathe, a noted animal rights activist, pointed out that incidents of animal lovers being victimised were common in Mumbai. “Those who feed dogs in their area are treated badly. Most residents are against such feeding and come up with random rules to stop them,” said Marathe.

RK Joshi, convener of Committee to Monitor Animal Welfare Laws in Maharashtra, has recently written to the BMC commissioner highlighting the issue of societies trying to get rid of stray dogs.

He has pointed out that years after Bombay High Court laid down the guidelines for dealing with stray dogs – the HC has put an emphasis on animal birth control and sterilisation – people continued to harass dogs and animal lovers.

“There is growing tendency in housing societies not to permit stray dogs on the society premises or even in the vicinity. There have been instances when dogs are brutally assaulted by the society members or the watchmen,” the letter states, adding that instances of animal lovers being assaulted were common.

The letter urges the commissioner, who is also the chairman of the Monitoring Committee, to urgently look at these issues and ensure that animal lovers and dogs were not harassed.

~~

Ms. Anjali Sharma, Advocate and Legal Advisor to the Animal Welfare Board of India, says that what is extremely significant is this part: “In a recent order, Jaishree Poonawala, judicial magistrate first class, remarked that “feeding stray dogs is not a crime”, adding that strays were not the same as pets and certainly not the sole responsibility of those who feed them.”

This is, as Ms. Sharma explains, because these men had been arrested under Section 289 of the Indian Penal Code – ‘negligent conduct with respect to an animal’, after a stray they were feeding bit a resident of the locality. Section 289 applies to pet dogs, but there has been an increasing attempt on the part of many, including police, R.W.A.s, etc. to bring feeding of strays, and any aggression the strays may show if provoked, within the ambit of this Section.

23 Comments on ““Feeding stray dogs is not a crime”: Mumbai Court clears duo arrested, humiliated for feeding dogs

  1. My housing society in Thane, THE VIJAY NAGRI ANNEX BLDG NO. 10,11,12 CHS too has imposed a fine of Rs 500/- against stray dog feeding. How can I get them to withdraw this, now that I know that this is against the above mumbai high court ruling? Where can I complain against them?
    Geeta V

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      • I am in touch with him. I am eagerly waiting for the society to withdraw the fine clause.

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      • Nilesh from PAWS told me that he has sent our society a warning. I didnt get a copy of the warning sent and I dont know whether they have received the warning either. So far they havent taken any action to reverse their decision of fine on feeding dogs. Can I do anything to hasten matters?

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      • I hope the warning letter you have sent has reached by now. However the society has gone ahead and put up a notice board on each building’s entrance that a fine of Rs 500/- would be imposed on feeding dogs. If you want I can also send u a photo of the same. It seems that the society chairman and other office-bearers have chosen to ignore your warning. (I havent received any copy of the warning )
        You told me orally that a reporter would take up this matter with a newspaper. However nobody has either called me or turned up. The strays are fishing the trash bins each morning for their daily food as members are scared to feed them. Looks like the society needs stronger threats so that they withdraw the fine. Please take necessary action nilesh and inform me if u need any help.

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      • Geeta, please write to Nilesh directly on his PAWS e-mail address).

        In the meantime, you may do as follows:
        What you should do, when an RWA or Apartment Owners’ Association tries suddenly to ban pets, or impose unreasonable restrictions on pets, is to study their bye-laws – if they’re a registered society, or a cooperative group housing society, they’ll have those. Even if they’re some other form of Association of Person, they’ll have some manner of rules or regulations for transaction of business – study those. If these do not contain a reference to pets, or impose any outlandish restriction, you can challenge the RWA / Apartment Owners’ Association action straight away. You can safely tell them that they’re exceeding their mandate, and in the following link you will find the letter that you can write to them : –

        http://www.strays.in/index.php/2012/09/know-your-dogs-rights-respose-to-the-unlawfulness-of-restrictions-on-pet-dogs-imposed-by-apartment-owners-associations-housing-societies-and-rwas/

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      • I visited the above site and found that it pertains to pet dogs. There are varied queries and responses connected to strays. Telling them is of no use as they have chosen not to listen. I talked to my society watchman and found out that he has been “empowered” to beat or kill dogs whenever he wishes. He is regularly beating and injuring them. One puppy was badly beaten yesterday night and is lying badly injured in a corner in the garden. How many of these voiceless animals will have to be tortured ? The watchman refuses to listen to my pleas for mercy towards them as he is eager to please the committee members at the cost of these poor lives. The society chairman and his supporters have refused to budge from their stand and have declared “dekhenge hamara kaun kya bigad sakta hai”.
        WILL YOU PLEASE TAKE QUICK ACTION? I BEG OF YOU AS THEIR TORTURE IS BECOMING UNBEARABLE. IF ANY JOURNALIST IS READING PLEASE PLEASE HELP. IT MAY NOT BRIING YOU MONEY BUT IT WILL ADD TO YOUR ACCOUNT OF GOOD KARMA IN THE FORM OF GOD’S BLESSINGS.
        I am also in touch with nilesh

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  2. Please call the Police or lodge a complaint against these persons, you cant remain in hiding either if you wish to stop this nonsense happening to the pups

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    • I have lodged a formal complaint with SPCA. A TOI journalist also talked to me and my society chairman. My socy secretary told me he has “convinced”the TOI journalist Mr Vijay. I also talked to them and they flatly refused to withdraw the fine. I have received a mail from Thane SPCA that they will study the matter and revert back. I will keep u updated in this matter.

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    • This is to update you with the latest happenings.
      A complaint has been lodged with the police by Thane SPCA and some animal lovers of our society who witnessed the crime.

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      • My heartfelt thanks to you for your help. I am thankful to SPCA too for their quick response and action. With GOD and wonderful people like u with me I too am determined to become an SPCA member and work for the betterment of our environment for the rest of my life

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  3. i sincerly appologize for all the misunderstandings,,I am a dye hard pet lover and have made dog house for pups and they at my home having milk with a collar on them..i have love birds n fish at my home..me n my daughther personally take care of puppys when they are just born..putting notice about fine on feeding dogs was taken by society n comeetee members n dat too within society complex where residents from other socities too are fedding stale foods to our dogs,,

    due to my limitations in this issue i have resigned from my post and would like to join NGO for their noble work going

    prafull gadge

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  4. lastly i thank Mrs Geetha and Ms and Mrs Thackker to make every resident of our society about the humanitirian approach towards our stray pets..i am with them all time what so ever happens..i salute you all,,n pl forgive if i did any thing wrong unknowingly

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  5. i sincerly appologize for all the misunderstandings,,I am a dye hard pet lover and have made dog house for pups and they at my home having milk with a collar on them..i have love birds n fish at my home..me n my daughther personally take care of puppys when they are just born..putting notice about fine on feeding dogs was taken by society n comeetee members n dat too within society complex where residents from other socities too are fedding stale foods to our dogs,,as per the guidlines rereciewed we have immediately withdrawn notice and alloted specific dog feeding zone where I would like to feed dogs. due to my limitations in this issue i have resigned from my Y SOCIETY SECRETARY post and would like to join NGO for their noble work going prafull gadge

    Like

  6. Hi i am constantly being humiliated by my nighbours for feeding strays. What should i do

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    • File a police complaint against these neighbours citing all laws and Delhi High Court rulings you have read about on our blog and request the police to take action as per law against these people who are harassing and criminally intimidating you.

      Like

  7. Pingback: Reporting a Crime: All about lodging an F.I.R with the Police | JAAGRUTI™

  8. Who will provide me relief when stray dogs start barking and fighting at 2.30 AM every morning and wake me up? Will all dog lovers come and tell me what to do?

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    • Have you ever tried to explore the reasons dog bark at that hour? Perhaps you don’t even know they keep robbers and miscreants at bay at that hour when the guards doze off to sleep.

      Like

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