THE IMPERATIVENESS OF ENFORCING MORE STRINGENT ANIMAL WELFARE LAWS IN INDIA
Updated: Feb 4
Author: Anmol Gupta, III Year of B.B.A.,LL.B from Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad.
“If Animals Spoke, Humanity would cry.
Humanity would collectively cry in shame if they begin to face the reality of humans torturing animals – and if the voiceless creatures start talking back. Like humans, animals have the anatomy whose functionality depends on the circulatory system spearheaded by the functioning of the heart, they too can feel things and they all need food and shelter to survive. The most notable difference between the two species is that humans can express their thoughts while animals cannot.
So, is humanity a characteristic native to only sentient beings that survive on two feet? Is this criteria enough for animals to suffer? And the most important question is - who sets these criteria to differentiate one living being from another? And is this criteria viable and enforceable under law?
Every living being – irrespective of their genealogy – has a right to live with peace and dignity, be it an animal or a human and ‘no person/entity’ can dare to take this right away from them. We do have laws in place in our Constitution to protect these rights within the boundaries of our country but what good is a law if not executed properly and what good it is if people are not aware of it? Knowledge about the laws and rights of the animals are very important because we humans tend to treat animals like they are lifeless creatures and with increasing cruelty towards these animals be it mental, physical or destroying their habitats have often resulted in extinction of various species and the day is not far when we see lab-grown and/or reanimated animals in society.
Legislative and Judicial Stand
Article 51A (g) of the Indian Constitution defines our fundamental duty to protect and improve the environment “including wildlife”. We have seen cases where people carelessly destroy forests or pollute water bodies and once such case is that of the defacing of the Yamuna floodplains by The Art of Living Foundation during a three-day celebration. The damage to Yamuna Floodplains was so severe that as per reports it lost almost all its natural vegetation and which was home to a large number of animals. AoL was subsequently admonished by the National Green Tribunal in June 2017 for not following environment protection norms and was fined Rs. 42 crores for their mishandling of the situation. Furthermore, to protect and improve our wildlife it is very important to teach the importance of the survivability of animals on our life from the beginning, which the Apex court kept in mind while deciding in the case of M.C Mehta v U.O.I. The court held that, “it is the duty of the Central Government to direct all the educational institutions of our country to teach and train citizens about the protection and improvement of the environment for at least one hour a week.”
Post-Independence, the first ever legislation made for the protection of wildlife was ‘The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.’ The main object of this legislation was to stop animal cruelty and to prohibit and deter any person, be it the owner of the animal or caretaker from inflicting or causing pain or suffering to any animal. Any act of beating, kicking, torturing, mutilating, administering injurious substances or killing of an animal was made a crime and even over- riding, over- driving, over- loading an animal was made illegal. This legislation intended to cover various acts of injustice and cruelty on animals and made it an illegal and punishable offence. In the case of N.R Nair and Ors. V U.O.I the Kerala H.C was of the opinion that the training and exhibition of 5 animals namely - dogs, panthers, tigers, monkeys and bears, should be banned as this also amounts to cruelty on such animals. The court held that, “circus animals are being forced to perform unnatural tricks, are housed in cramped cages. Subjected to fear, hunger, and pain, not to mention the undignified way of life they have to live with no respite…Though not homosapiens they are also beings entitled to dignified existences and humane treatment sans cruelty and torture.” Even the practice of Jallikattu- bull fighting was banned by the S.C in the case of Animal Welfare Board of India v. A Nagaraja and Ors for violating sections 3 and 11 of PCA Act, 1960.
Another legislation drafted was the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. This legislation was enacted with the intent to prohibit hunting of wild animals, protect creatures on a verge of extinction, to specify animals that can be hunted. Killing wildlife animals is illegal but killing them to protect or in good faith is seen as an exception, this was held by the S.C in the case of Tilak Bahadur Rai v. St of A.P where a man shot tiger to death to protect himself.
Except these legislations, the animals are also protected under Sec. 428 and Sec. 429 of the Indian Penal Code. Sec. 428 of IPC punishes any person who commits mischief by killing, poisoning or maiming any animal of the value of ten rupees or upwards with imprisonment up to 2 years or fine or both. Whereas, Sec 429 of IPC punishes any person for committing the same mischief with any elephant, camel, horse mule, buffalo, bull, cow or ox or any other animal of the value of Rs. 50 or more with imprisonment up to 5 years or fine or both. In the case of State Of Bihar vs Murad Ali Khan the S.C was of the opinion that in case of double jeopardy “then the offender shall be liable to be prosecuted and punished under either or any of those enactments, but shall not be liable to be punished twice for the same offence.”
India has various legislations and sections enacted to protect animals. Laws have never been a problem in this case. The main problem is enforcing these laws and educating people about these laws. The discrepancy between laws and their implementation results in inability to provide effective solutions. According to statistics, India slaughters 16 land base animals per person/ year and is given “C” rating under Animal Protection Index (API) and moderate performer under Sanctioning Cruelty Category and according to another statistics in India there are 138 police officers per lakh of population making India the fifth lowest amongst the 71 countries.This explains the ineffectiveness of laws in India. India being one of the largest country and Second largest countries in terms of population makes it very difficult for the police officers to guide and enforce these laws. This makes educating people about the laws more important because only when they are aware of these laws, they will file complaint and stand up for any mis-happening that takes place. Educating people should start from the ground level, from the schools and at home, parents should teach their child to protect and care for animals and not torture them. Only when these kids are aware of their duties and laws and punishment that comes along if these laws are violated, it is only then they will stand up for their rights and for the rights of others as well, helping India to be a better nation.