As mankind made strides towards a more civilized world, from the freezing days of the Ice Age to the golden days of the Holocene; it can perhaps be said with sufficient affirmation that mankind has come a long, long way from the days of scavenging for food and living in caves. Man’s journey towards a civilized world, one that cherishes human rights, values life above all and has the elements of democracy, liberty and fraternity at its core wasn’t a rosy path. Rather, it was laden with adversities; wars, politics, pandemics, disasters and whatnot.
The world we live in today, even though it doesn’t provide equal opportunities to everyone, is still far better than the days when there were no distinctions between men and animals. We have come a very long way from those days, evolving and learning along the path, becoming a better version of human beings. Further, a man started settling in civilizations and societies, formulated laws and legislations, created concrete jungles for various purposes and started encroaching on more and more land every day. But what about animals? Throughout history, we have looked at progress, evolution and development through the perspective of humans, but an essential companion and element of history and the present world are animals. Among all our wars, our politics, our developments, our industrialization, animals have never had a say in any of it. They are creatures that cannot communicate with us, but they have rights as well and as human beings, it is our duty to respect animal rights and uphold them. Through the means of this article, we would be going through the various animal welfare rights and the legislation safeguarding the same in India.
Animal Welfare RightS Incorporated in the Constitution of India
The following are the provisions that have been established by the Constitution of India to ensure the protection and welfare of animals:
- Under Part IV of the Constitution of India, which covers the Directive Principles of State Policy, Article 48 lays down the “organization of agriculture and animal husbandry” whereby the State should make efforts on its part to organize agriculture and animal husbandry based on modern and scientific lines, with a special focus on safeguarding and enhancing the breeds, in addition to forbidding the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.
- Article 48A, under the same Part i.e., Part IV, further establishes the “Protection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wildlife.” This Article lays down that the State should make efforts to safeguard and better the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.
- Further, moving on to Part IVA of the Constitution of India which dictates the Fundamental Duties of every Indian citizen, Article 51A(g) included within the part lays down that 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.”
- Article 243G included in Part IX of the Constitution of India which spells out authority, the powers and the responsibilities of the Panchayats, read with the Eleventh Schedule authorizes the Gram Panchayats to formulate laws with respect to dairy, poultry and animal husbandry.
- Further, Article 243W included in Part IXA of the Constitution of India which lays down the authority, powers and the responsibilities of the Municipalities, read with the Twelfth Schedule empowers the Municipalities to propose laws regarding cattle pounds, prevention of cruelty to animals, urban forestry, protection of environment and promotion of ecological aspects.
- Furthermore, Article 246 under Chapter I of Part XI of the Constitution of India read with the Seventh Schedule empowers the Parliament and the State Legislatures to formulate legislations regarding the protection and safeguarding of animals.
- Section 428 of the IPC lays down the punishment for mischief by maiming or killing an animal of the value of ten rupees to be imprisonment extending up to two years, or with fine or with both.
- Further, Section 429 of the IPC lays down the punishment for mischief by maiming or killing an animal of the value of fifty rupees or upwards to be imprisonment extending up to five years, or with fine or with both.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, enacted in the year 1960 is one of the primary legislation that prevents the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals.
Chapter II of the Act lays down the guidelines for setting up the Animal Welfare Board of India under the ambit of the Central Government. Further, the Act also spells out the penalty and punishment in case of cruel behaviour to animals in various circumstances.
The Wildlife Protection Act, enacted in the year 1972 with an aim to protect and preserve wildlife and also to prohibit illegal activities concerning wildlife. Further, it also aims at safeguarding endangered species.
Chapter II of the Act further lays out the guidelines regarding the appointment of authorities and constitution of a National Board for Wild Life in furtherance of the aim of the Act.
Some Initiatives Taken by the Government in Furtherance of Protection of Animal Lives
- Project Tiger
This initiative was launched in the year 1973 by the Government of India in furtherance of the aim of protection of the Bengal tigers and to make sure that their population grows. Further, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) was also established under Section 38 L (1) of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, as amended in 2006 for strengthening tiger conservation, as per powers and functions assigned to it under the said Act.
- Project Elephant
This initiative was launched by the Government of India in the year 1992. The primary aim of this project is to ensure the protection and safeguarding of elephant populations across the countries and to promote their development.
To conclude, the author would like to state that like humans, even animals deserve rights and the same have been bestowed upon them since their birth. They are mute creatures and they do not wish to be a part of our politics, our science, our ventures, our business, our experiments, our entertainment or our wars. They wish to live a peaceful life and it is their birthright; when humans encroached upon their lands, their habitats and converted them to concrete jungles without their permission, it becomes but our duty as responsible citizens and human beings to provide animals with their basic fundamental rights and to promote the same.
Author(s) Name: Rohitkumar Rout (Chanakya National Law University, Patna)