Mumbai: Hearing a PIL, the Bombay High Court has asked the Maharashtra Government to ensure that snakes are not harmed or injured during the Nag Panchami festival.
As per the tradition, live snakes are worshipped on Nag Panchami which is being celebrated all over the country today.
The PIL claimed that generally days before the festival, snakes are captured from the forests and worshipped in villages and cities. Devotees offer milk to these creatures or give money to snake-charmers to feed the snakes.
"After capturing the snakes, poison is removed from them and they are kept hungry for a few days, so that they would drink milk when offered to them on Nag Panchami day," the PIL further claimed.
A division bench headed by justice D Y Chandrachud was hearing a PIL filed by four persons, including a member of the Wildlife Advisory Board and a wildlife biologist.
On Thursday, the judges also ordered that the ban on procession of snakes, imposed by the court on August 11, 2004, would continue.
However, the court said the festival can be celebrated as per tradition without causing harm to snakes.
Arguing that snakes were "tortured" in the name of religion, counsel for the petitioners urged that action be taken against those who catch them.
It was pointed out that a number of species of snakes had vanished because of the practice. "There is no custom of worshipping live snakes, but that of its idol," the petitioners argued.
The gram panchayat of Battis Shirala village in Sangli, where the Nag Panchami festival is celebrated with religious fervour, submitted that utmost care was taken of the snakes as they were worshipped.
The snakes are captured few days before the festival and released at the same place later, they said.
The hearing of the PIL has been deferred to August 20 when the court would pronounce its final order.