The top court also directed the Kerala chief wildlife warden to see its directions are followed and take actions against owners who default. The wildlife authority has been asked to count the number of captive elephants in the state as well.
The judges also ruled that the elephant-owners and temple management boards called Devasoms must maintain a data book on the animals and keep district committees informed.
"It will be the duty of the state government, district committee, temple management board and the owners of elephants that no cruelty is meted out to the elephants," the court said.
"If found, apart from launching criminal proceedings there will be severe consequences including confiscation of elephants," the court said.
The ruling came after a non-governmental organization Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre filed a public-interest litigation over the treatment of elephants. The plea by the group had sought that elephants owned by temples should be registered with the Animal Welfare Board of India.
The Kerala government and temple management boards had opposed the appeal saying as per state rules these animals were captive but not performing elephants. So there was no need for registering them with the Animal Welfare Board, they said.
They said that they already submit a declaration to the chief wildlife warden - a claim that the petitioners rejected.
The petitioners said that temple elephants are treated cruelly and kept illegally, an act which comes out in the brazenly in the open during the Thrissur Pooram festival.
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