Indian court bans Mumbai's horse-drawn carriages

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Mumbai's ornate horse-drawn carriages are nearing the end of the road after a court in the Indian city ruled them illegal, saying owners must wind up operations within a year

Mumbai's ornate horse-drawn carriages are nearing the end of the road after a court in the Indian city ruled them illegal, saying owners must wind up operations within a year (AFP Photo/Punit Paranjpe)

Mumbai's ornate horse-drawn carriages are nearing the end of the road after a court in the Indian city ruled them illegal, saying owners must wind up operations within a year.

The silver-coloured Victorias -- styled on open carriages used during Queen Victoria's reign -- have been plying Mumbai's streets since British colonial times, and for years have been a tourist attraction.

But on Monday the Bombay High Court agreed with animal welfare groups, who had petitioned for a ban citing poor treatment of the horses, that the practice was cruel.

"We hold that the use of horse-driven carriages... for joy rides is completely illegal," read the court verdict.

It ordered the city government to "ensure that the use of such horse-driven carriages... shall be completely stopped on expiry of a period of one year from today".

The court also ruled that all related stables must be closed down and directed local authorities to come up with a scheme to help the estimated 700 people involved in the trade.

The jazzy carriages were once a mode of transport for former Bombay's wealthy classes, but they now carry tourists around the historic Colaba district and Marine Drive promenade in the south of the city.

They are often seen outside the luxury Taj Mahal Palace hotel and Gateway of India monument and have also appeared in several Bollywood movies.

But concerns over unlicensed stables and poor treatment of the horses saw the Animals and Birds Charitable Trust, with the support of PETA India, lodge a case in Mumbai's top court.

PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, had claimed the horses were often malnourished, denied adequate rest or veterinary care and were forced to stand in their own waste in sub-standard stables.

Manilal Valliyate, from PETA India, applauded the decision, saying "Mumbai's Victoria industry is inherently cruel and dangerous".