Mumbai, June 8: The horse-drawn Victorias, a familiar sight for joyrides in Mumbai's tourist areas, will become history from June 2016 after the Bombay High Court on Monday termed them "completely illegal".
A division bench comprising Justices A.K. Menon and A.S. Oka directed the government to come up with a rehabilitation scheme for the some 700 families which will be affected by the decision -- as well as the horses.
The government has been directed to ascertain the exact number of families to be hit by the ban and submit its rehabilitation scheme to the court by December 31.
Justice Menon and Justice Oka ordered the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation to shut down all the stables housing these horses after one year.
The judges' order came on a PIL filed by NGO Animal and Birds Charitable Trust and others in which the People for the Ethical Treatment to Animals (PETA) was an intervenor.
In May 2014, the Mumbai Traffic Police had ruled that the Victorias were not a means of public conveyance and sought a ban on them.
A medical report by the PETA submitted to the high court said that in the first six months of 2009, there were 64 to 119 cases of injuries to horses every month besides cases of cruelty on the animals.
The BMC told the court that since 1973, no new licence to ply Victorias had been issued.
The PIL cited various issues including malnutrition of the horses, overwork, lack of proper care, their poor living conditions, and injuries and cruelty by the owners and handlers.
The division bench, while ordering the rehabilitation of the horses, asked the government to consider any offer for the purpose coming from any animal welfare NGO.
Presently, according to figures filed before the court, there are around 170 horses and 130 Victorias which ply mainly in a restricted area of south Mumbai between Colaba and Nariman Point.The carriages were an integral part of Mumbai commute for a long time before they were overtaken by cabs, buses, trams and suburban trains.
Over the years, since they were suitable only for short distances and not popular during monsoon, they became unviable both for the operators and customers.
As Mumbai's traffic grew in leaps and bounds, the Victorias were relegated to certain designated areas of Mumbai though they continue to be used regularly in places like Gorai, on the city's outskirts.