Kerala HC mandates six-metre distance between elephants and crowd at Thrissur Pooram

File photo: Manorama

Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Monday mandated a six-metre distance between the elephants and the crowd during the Thrissur Pooram to ensure public safety. The vacation bench comprising Justices Jayasankaran Nambiar and P Gopinath ruled out holding programmes like theevatti (pole-mounted fire) and chenda melam (percussion ensembles) when the elephants are brought to the festival.

Considering Kerala's scorching temperatures, the court stressed the need to maintain distance in such conditions. Previously, the forest department withdrew its order imposing a 50-metre distance between the elephants and the crowd. The department had amended the controversial circular issued by the Chief Wildlife Warden, which imposed restrictions on the parading of elephants as part of festivities in places of worship.

The amended order suggests making arrangements to ensure elephants are not disturbed in manner during the procession. The department retracted the earlier order after Forest Minister A K Saseendran suggested revising it, considering concerns expressed by various Devaswom Boards in the state.

During the day's proceedings, Thiruvambadi Devaswom suggested a five-six metre distance, which the court approved. However, the court prohibited the presence of theevatti and chenda melam within this distance.

Elephant fitness tests are scheduled for the April 18, a day before the Pooram. A committee headed by the district collector will conduct these tests for the 100 participating elephants. The court directed the Chief Wildlife Warden of the forest department to ensure the animals' fitness, emphasising the importance of upholding fitness certificates to prevent untoward incidents.

Furthermore, the court mandated the presence of the presidents of Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi Devaswoms during the elephant fitness tests, without interference in the proceedings. They are permitted to convey their opinions to the committee.

Kerala HC
File: Manorama

A forest department-led squad, comprising 100 members from various disciplines, will oversee activities at the venue. The department has been granted authority to determine the squad's composition. Advocates Sandesh Raja and Suresh Menon will represent the court during the fitness tests, submitting inspection reports afterward.

Waste disposal
In an effort to safeguard the sanctity and environmental integrity of the Thekkinkadu Maidan during the upcoming Thrissur Pooram festivities, the High Court has also issued directives to the Cochin Devaswom Board and the Thrissur Corporation.

The court order, delivered by a Division Bench comprising Justice Anil K Narendran and Justice Harisankar V Menon, prohibits the use of any portion of the maidan for the disposal of biodegradable or non-biodegradable waste generated during the festival.

Citing previous court orders from July 26, 2023, the directive emphasises the preservation of environmental sanctity and upholding the dignity of the sacred site during the festivities. Additionally, the court instructed the Cochin Devaswom Board to ensure that worshippers entering the temple premises during Thrissur Pooram do not wear footwear, maintaining traditional customs.

Further, the court mandated collaborative efforts between the Cochin Devaswom Board, Paramekkavu Devaswom, Thiruvambady Devaswom, and the Thrissur Pooram Exhibition Committee to ensure environmental safety standards are met, especially regarding plastic and non-biodegradable waste. District Collector has been directed to convene a joint meeting before April 17, 2024, to devise effective waste disposal strategies.

The court's previous orders have stressed the importance of keeping the maidan plastic-free and managing waste effectively. The Thrissur Corporation has faced challenges in waste disposal during Thrissur Pooram due to the lack of open grounds. To address this, the corporation plans to deploy 50 daily laborers and 380 on April 19 and 20, to clean the maidan.
(With LiveLaw inputs.)

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