Animal Protection Rights in India

Introduction

Animal Protection Rights in India with the advent of civilization, various laws came into the picture. These laws were essentially designed to grant the members of civilization the rights required to live a happy and secure life. We are all aware that human beings originally formed an agrarian society, which is the foundation of the modern age we live in today. Thus it comes as no surprise that animals played a quintessential role when it comes to the advancement of the human race. As the species with the highest intelligence, it thus becomes our moral duty not to protect only each other but other creatures as well.

Laws in India relating to the protection of Animals

Article 51G, one of the fundamental duties enshrined in the Constitution of India, states that “it shall be the duty of every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for all living creatures”.[1] This is supplemented by Article 48A which states that “the State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country”[2]. While fundamental rights and directive principles of state policy are non-justiciable meaning that they cannot be enforced in a court of law, they can be taken into consideration while formulating certain laws and adjudicating certain cases by the court. This is exactly what was done when formulating Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 and Wildlife Protection Act 1972.

Provisions in the IPC

Section 428 of the Indian Penal Code has penal provisions for cruel acts to animals that have a value of ten rupees or more. The person committing the said offence shall be punished with either a prison term extending two years or with a fine. Section 429 of the IPC provides penal provisions relating to the offences in relation to cattle or animals valued at fifty rupees or upwards. This offence attracts either a five-year prison term or a fine. While these laws exist in theory, the society remains largely apathetic to the condition of different animals, as day in and day out, there are reports of people lashing out at a person for merely feeding stray dogs near an area they deem residential and other numerous instances of violence against animals. On account of these reasons, it becomes necessary to have an in-depth understanding of the laws around the same so that they can be enforced.

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960

This act has provisions against unnecessary cruelty to animals. The common forms of cruelty that we see against animals are cruelty to stray dogs by people, cruelty upon cattle employed for labour, and cruelty upon pets by their owners. The provisions against the same have been provided in Section 11 of this act which is further divided into sub-sections, which talk of offences such as failing to provide one’s pet with sufficient food and water, failing to provide exercise and unreasonable chaining of an animal, employing an unfit animal for labour, etc.[3] While such acts have been deemed as offences, the punishment prescribed for the same extends to only a minimum fine of 10 rupees which may be increased to fifty on commission of the same offence within three years, with a fine having a minimum amount of rupees 25 or a prison term of 3 months.[4] These penal provisions are extremely lenient, and cannot be construed to have a deterrent impact. This act also does not make illegal the killing of strays in lethal chambers or in a manner prescribed by the government.[5] According to a report by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Animals, there have been 5 lakh cases of reported animal abuse in the last decade[6]. Such grim facts are a testament to the failure of the enforceability of our laws.

Wildlife Protection Act 1972

This is a more stringent piece of legislation compared to the one mentioned previously. Every nation needs to conserve its wildlife on account of its quintessential role in the balancing of the ecosystem. Wildlife can also generate tourism for the nation and thereby contribute to the government’s revenue. Section 39 provides provisions relating to the conservation of wild animals and trees aside from animals classified as vermin.[7] Violation of the provisions of this act attracts a prison term of three years or twenty-five thousand rupees or both.  A subsequent offence will lead to a seven-year prison term along with a fine which shall amount to ten thousand rupees.[8]

Conclusion

 Having covered the laws regarding the rights of animals in India, we come to the understanding that it is the wildlife that is offered more protection than the mere stray animals such as the stray cattle. While there is a provision of a maximum two-year prison term or fine for maiming any animal above ten rupees in section 428 of the IPC[9] and a maximum five-year prison or fine for maiming cattle or any animal upwards the value of fifty rupees[10], the exact amount of the fine has not been defined and with the right connections a person could end up with little to no consequences. The use of the preposition “or” in these provisions open a way for a loophole where a person can get away with a heinous act in exchange for a very small sum of money. Also, a stray animal isn’t necessarily one which measures up to any monetary value which also leaves way for a loophole. In such circumstances, pet owners who abuse their canine are not necessarily answerable to any authority, or pet owners seeking grievances of their dog being killed in a hit and run by a speeding car have little to no means of doing so. It is also pertinent to keep in mind that India is not overpopulated only in terms of human population but in terms of animal population as well with multiple stray dogs and stray cattle left to roam on the streets, leading to dog attacks and road accidents on collision with cattle. Such incidents further prevent the possibility of harmony between humans and animals, contributing to a further rise in apathy towards the condition of animals. The solution to such a problem is the creation of shelters for the numerous strays and neutering to prevent further population but the measures taken by the Animal Welfare Board of India have been to the contrary. Thus, the way forward to establishing better rights for animals is to first create stronger legislation and secondly take steps to ensure the prevention of human-animal conflicts.

Author(s) Name: Manya Manish (Hidayatullah National Law University)

References:

[1] Constitution of India,1950, Article 51g

[2] Constitution of India, 1950, Article 48

[3]Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960, s 11

[4] ibid

[5] Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 s 11(3)(b)

[6] Bobbins Abraham,In Past 10 Yrs India Saw Nearly 5 Lakh Cases Of Animal Cruelty, Unreported Could Be Much Higher, India Times (Delhi 18th February 2021)

[7] peepal farm, Know the Rights of Animals under Indian Law <https://peepalfarm.org/animalrights?gclid=Cj0KCQjw1N2TBhCOARIsAGVHQc6eZoTPs0jHDCufl1Q7pH7w-jQsnLxKERfFUEEMpGLZCyAU-BruOkEaAqjmEALw_wcB,accessed 6th May 2022>

[8] ibid

[9] Indian Penal Code, 1860, s 428

[10] Indian Penal Code, 1860, s 429

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