ANIMAL RIGHTS IN INDIA: MOST UNDERRATED TOPIC OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAW
By: Srajan Kapil* |
Before I write anything, I just want to mention one incident that shook the entire world. This instance is so dreadful, so loathsome that whosoever came to know about it was just wondering if it really happened. A pregnant elephant in Palakkad district of Kerela was given a pineapple laced with explosives. Her jaw was grievously damaged due to which she roamed around hungry. It is very painful to even realise, the enormous amount of pain which she went through and above all the pain of a mother for her unborn child. Even in such extreme distress, she did not damage a single property or attacked a single person. This incident really shows the distinction between Humans& Animals. Yes, we are the humans, the HOMO SAPIENS, classified as the highest ranking in the entire animal kingdom living in the world of development, thrived in almost all assorted tasks, whether it be pertaining to -information technology, medical field, space& technology etc. No doubt we developed a lot but at what cost? Is it really a success for the human race when we have lost our basic moral values? Does the impression of the artificial environment has grown so strong that the roots of humans with nature is just for namesake? These are not just simple questions but hints to the loopholes in our society which are hindering in the overall growth of our country which needs to be taken into consideration. One of the most debatable issue and maybe a highly underrated topic in today’s scenario is ‘ANIMAL RIGHTS’. In our day to day life, it is not very surprising to come across the events of stoning and hurting homeless pooches, shooting blameless winged creatures and leaving totally innocuous animals to starvation and demise, or seen organizations unlawfully testing on animals, animals being abused and hurt for amusement in zoos and parks, men transporting a large number of cows or other animals in trucks in inhumane conditions, beating them and over-burdening them, and thought about whether there is a conclusion to this pitiless system.
In Hindu mythology, various gods& goddesses are associated with the various animals which are evident from the celebration of festivals like Nag Panchami or worshipping of Nandi bull in Lord Shiva temple. This animal love is not just restricted to Hindus but is the central theme of Buddhism & Jainism as well. But it all comes to a halt and looks very hollow when experienced in ground reality. The sentiments towards animal kingdom are not just limited to the religious books or saints but are also taken in serious consideration by national leaders like Mahatama Gandhi, which can be seen in his own words as “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” The idea of deserving policy to the animals of having a dignified life without any cruel attitude towards them is not just developed from recent times but can be seen earlier in history as well. We also come across Chetak, the horse of Maharana Pratap Singh. Various poems and writeups are there telling about the love of the king to his horse. There is just so much that an individual can accomplish for assurance of animals without laws. India has a reasonable collection of animal protection laws, not free from loopholes arising as the mission of a peaceful environment for our animals is still not achieved.
ANIMAL PROTECTION RIGHTS & LAW
The founding fathers of the Indian Constitution were also sensitive to the topic of animal interests and their protection which is evident from the Article 51(A)G of the Indian Constitution which reads as “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.” In addition to it, Article 48A makes the state responsible to protect, safeguard and improve the forests and wildlife of our country. To be more informative from the constitutional aspect, it is necessary to mention that according to:
List II (State List), Seventh Schedule, State is provided with the power and authority to preserve, secure and improve stock and forestall animal sicknesses, and authorize veterinary preparations and practice.
In List III (Concurrent List), it is given that both the Centre and the State have the force and power to: Prevent inhumane attitude towards animals & ensure the safety of wild animals and birds. Under the Eleventh Schedule (Article 243 G), the Panchayati Raj establishments have the obligation and power to manage matters identifying with: Creature farming, dairying and poultry and fisheries.
The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 is another Central Act that provides for the protection of wild birds, animals, plants, etc. Other laws are found in the following Rules: Dog Breeding and Marketing) Rules, 2017, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules, 2017, Animal Birth Control (Dog) Rules 2001, etc. the traces of animal rights can also be seen in Criminal Procedure Code of India as Killing, maiming, poisoning or rendering useless of any animal is punishable by imprisonment for up to two years or with fine or with both, under Section 428 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
The jurisprudence that has developed in recent times in the field of animal protection is a very positive sign as it shows the shifting of perception from the anthropocentric approach towards the eco-centric approach. The case laws that have been decided by the Honourable courts over a decade in this matter show the scope, emergence& importance of environmental law in the present scenario. The very landmark case of Karnail Singh & Ors v. State Of Haryana is a breakthrough judgement in which the judiciary touched the matter of animal rights in the purview of Fundamental Rights. The case before the court was not just a regular civil case of breaking the laws or doing any act which is abstinent to be done by the law but was involving the major issue of animal rights that are being subdued by nearly everyone without any guilt towards mankind or law. The landmark judgement very reliably stood upto the expectations of making this case a landmark in the jurisprudence and history of animal rights. The beauty of judgement is seen as it goes beyond the question of the welfare of cows as concentrated in the case but also talks about all animals, birds and aquatic species as well. Justice Rajiv Sharma clearly mentions in his judgement “The entire animal kingdom including avian and aquatic are declared as legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person. All the citizens throughout the State of Haryana are hereby declared persons in loco parentis as the human face for the welfare/protection of animals.” The doctrine of ‘parens patriae’ which refers to the duty of the state to provide protection for those who are unable to protect themselves which was earlier restricted to humans, now has also included non-humans in the scope of this doctrine.
As the judiciary is approaching this issue very diligently it has also raised the issue of lack of role of the legislature in participating in the enactment of new rules and regulations and modification in the present scenario is a matter of concern. In another landmark case of Animal welfare board of India v A. Nagaraja & Ors., the Honourable Supreme Court held that “Parliament was expected to make a proper amendment of the PCA Act to provide an effective deterrent to achieve the object and purpose of the Act and for violation of Section 11, adequate penalties and punishments should be imposed. Parliament, it was expected, would elevate rights of animals to that of constitutional rights, as done by many of the countries around the world, so as to protect their dignity and honour.”
Another leading case law is of Narayan Dutt Bhatt v. Union of India & Ors. in this subject matter in which it is clearly stated “We may, therefore, define a person for the purpose of jurisprudence as any entity (not necessarily a human being) to which rights or duties may be attributed.”
AVAILABLE LEGAL ACTIONS
Each state has an Animal Husbandry Department, which is committed to giving its assets to veterinary human services and other united administrations, in every situation. The execution of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 and Rules thereunder, additionally lies with the Animal Husbandry Department. Hence, they are authorised in assisting the concerned animal welfare associations. But as a responsible citizen of the country, it is very important to be aware of the application of laws and the ways by which an individual can take legal action against the required person/association. There are some of the ways which are being discussed.
The very first thing that one can do to stop animal abuse is to send a legal notice to the individual/group of animal abusers or report the matter to an NGO which would do that for you. In case of no progress being noticed, the provision of filing an official complaint is available. The report by name of Wildlife Offence Report (WLOR) is prepared under Section 50(4) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. This can be filed by anyone generally. Though, the complainant needs to approach a magistrate and make an allegation orally or in writing by approaching a forest officer, who can further file a complaint to the magistrate. Offences under the Wildlife Protection Act are non-bailable and cognizable offences. Under Section 43 of the CrPC, an individual can arrest an offender who has committed a non-bailable and cognizable offence or is a habitual offender and hand him/her over to the police.
In the present scenario of COVID-19, when every country is doing research for making Vaccine to end this pandemic simultaneously millions of mice, cats, dogs, rabbits etc are the ones on whom the trial is being done. The kind of horrible environment exposed to the animals in which they had to go is very terrifying. After suffering a lot of pain & experiencing torture almost all of them will be killed. Through the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules (Second Amendment) 2014, animal testing for cosmetic products was prohibited all over India. But this subject needs more attention & in today’s time, it will not be wrong to say that not much has been contributed by the legislation or judiciary in this matter. The present legislation in India needs to be modified by making more stringent laws. We can see a ray of hope from the judiciary side as all the decisions given by the honourable courts are in itself magnificent steps taken towards the nonhuman rights. The judgements that are being delivered support the arguments of animal personhood and the declaration of legal rights to them. The liberal judgements coming in the recent times should be considered as a strong start to strengthen the animal rights but the inclusion of animals on a broader term has kept the scope for further litigation in the subject. Undoubtedly a great deal of exceptionally intricate and explicit animal protection laws has been passed in India, they are regularly not appropriately taken into the ground level. The need of the hour is to sensitize with this serious issue and work for the development of it without leaving its traces on future generations.
* The author is a student at Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad.
1. John Davis (16 March 2011). "Gandhi - and the Launching of Veganism".
2. Parliament of India (1982). "The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, as amended by Central Act 26 of 1982" (PDF).
3. "Central Laws".
4. "India Legislation & Animal Welfare Oversight". 25 January 2016.