The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has declined to transport four elephants from eastern Assam’s Tinsukia to Ahmedabad for the July 4 Jagannath Rath Yatra until the Gauhati High Court resolves the matter and the State Forest Department clarifies an order of the Supreme Court regarding transfer of elephants.Assam-based animal rights activists Urmi Mala Das and Nandini Baruah had on Friday filed a public interest litigation at the high court challenging the Assam government’s decision to transport four juvenile elephants, two of them females, in railway wagons to Ahmedabad. Their PIL followed a petition filed via email to the court by Canada-based activist Sangeeta Iyer.PIL filed“We will not dispatch the elephants unless we receive a clarification sought from the Forest Division on an order by the Supreme Court. Besides, there is a PIL to watch out for,” said Masood Alom, the Additional Divisional Railway Manager of NFR’s Tinsukia Division. Hearing a case related to Kerala, the SC had in May 2016 said: “The state government shall not issue any ownership certificate to any of the persons in possession of elephants. That apart, the persons who are in possession of elephants shall not transfer the elephants outside the state nor shall they part with the elephants by way of transfer in any manner…” Officials of NRF’s zonal headquarters in Guwahati’s Maligaon confirmed the decision not to transport the elephants until the legal issues are resolved. They also trashed reports that the elephants were being dispatched quietly before the PIL is heard on Monday.
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