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Livestock exports begin from Tuna port after Gujarat High Court clears decks; Two mechanised sailing vessels depart from Tuna port to Dubai with around 3500 live goats and sheep.

After remaining stalled for four months, Export of live goats and sheep from Tuna port on Kutch coast resumed on December fourth as Gujarat High Court castigated the Customs Department for holding back shipping bills on the basis of representation of animal rights activists. The Court cleared the decks for the resumption of exports for livestock.

Two mechanized sailing vessels departed from Tuna port on December fourth night with around 3500 live goats and sheep. “After securing clearance from the Deendayal Port Trust (DPT) and Customs Department, we worked overtime and loaded the livestock on mechanized vessels. The vessels loaded with sheep set sail for Dubai on December fourth night and the second vessel a couple of hours later according to a trade representative.

Tuna is the only port in Gujarat besides Mumbai port on the West Coast, from where live stocks exports are permitted by government f India.

The trade sources said the export was headed for Dubai and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. “After the Gujarat High Court ruled in our favor, the Customs House, Kandla and Deendayal Port Trust officers helped us a lot. With their assistance, we loaded the livestock overnight and shipped it within hours. This is a huge relief as finally, we have been able to honor our supply commitments made to importers in the UAE..

Exporters have been delivering live goats to the Gulf region regularly for the last four decades. However, the trade had come to a grinding halt after the District Magistrate of Kutch ordered the suspension of movement of livestock on August 6 this year on the ground that provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 were being violated.

A couple of days later, the Directorate General of Shipping had withdrawn its Special Permission granted to Mechanized vesels to operate during the month of August. The DM had constituted a three-member committee to look into the issue and the committee had concluded that the exporters were violating legal norms. The Kutch District Magistrate had said that she had acted on the orders of the state government, which in turn had received complaints from Animal Rights Activists who are advocating a ban on the exporters.

But the Livestock Exporters Association, an unregistered organization of livestock exporters of the state, had moved the Gujarat High Court challenging the Kutch DM’s order which had imposed an embargo on the movement of livestock in Tuna indefinitely.

The High Court had stayed the DM’s order on September 18 and cleared the way for exports while directing exports to adhere to relevant laws. Despite the court order, initially, the traffic department of DPT had refused permission to exporters but eventually, the DPT also gave green signal to exporters on October 31, after “consulting Ministry of Shipping.”

However, when an exporter filed shipping bills with Customs House, Kandla in early November the latter had kept them pending for clearance, saying informing the exporter through a letter on November 16 that the Department had received representation from Animal Rights Organizations and that it was looking into them. The exporter, however, moved the HC on November 20, seeking direction from the Court to Customs Department to clear Shipping bills for exporting livestock.

Disposing of the petition, the bench of Justices Harsha Devani and AP Thaker ruled in favor of the exporters observing the petitioner had complied with relevant laws while seeking clearance for exports. The Court also wrapped the Customs Department for keeping shipping bills clearance pending for a long time.

Various representations have been received from animal activists and that in the light of such representations, it is possible that the provisions of certain laws have not been followed. In the opinion of this court, if there is breach of any provision other than the provisions of the Customs Act and the Import-Export Policy, it is for the concerned authorities under those Acts to take action in respect of such breach.

The customs authorities are governed by the provisions of the Customs Act and the Import-Export Policy, and are required to take action pursuant to the shipping bill filed by an exporter within the four corners of such law and the policy and restrictions provided there under,” the High Court bench order said.

“After the High Court ruled in our favor, we had filed shipping bills afresh on December 3. We got clearance from Customs Department the very next day and could resume the export,” said the exporter, adding the consignment shipped had been sourced from Ahmedabad and Rajasthan.

Animal rights activists have been protesting this year that goats and sheep are exported to Gulf countries for slaughter. They are also claiming that the exports are hurting the local livestock industry and families dependent on rearing goats and sheep.

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