A bench comprising justices Dipak Misra and S K Singh also directed that people in possession of elephants do not transfer the pachyderms outside the state.
The apex court made it clear that if any ownership certificate has been issued, “the same shall be withdrawn subject to the final verdict of the Supreme Court.”
“We think it apt to direct that 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,” the bench said.
The direction came on two applications moved on a PIL, filed by six organisations and individuals including Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre, which said the number of captive elephants kept by people and religious institutions stood at over 3,000.
The two applications alleged that the elephants, used for religious processions or rides, were chained and ill-treated in violation of the statutory provisions and sought quashing of a Kerala government notification dated February 26 which offered an amnesty period for those keeping 289 captive elephants without valid ownership certificates.
During the hearing, advocate Aparna Bhat, appearing for Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre, said the state government under the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972 has no authority to issue such a notification.
The counsel for the Kerala government referred to Section 40(4) of the Act to highlight that the state government can make a declaration subject to certain conditions and it has jurisdiction to issue an amnesty scheme.
Taking note of the submissions, the bench said it would deal with the issues raised in the application at the final stage of hearing. .