Animals are essential in our current social, ecological, and cultural systems and even knowing their utility, they are mistreated and killed. To protect animals from animal cruelty, breeding, hunting, and other forms of abuse and exploitation, India has many laws addressing these matters. Despite these laws, animal torcher and cruelty are on the rise considering recent events like the sale of dog meat in Nagaland, Kerala’s Elephant tragedy, etc. which tells us that humans have absolutely no respect for animal lives. Recently, a Public Interest litigation was filed by an NGO, to prevent animal cruelty by enforcing the nation’s animal protection legislation and identifying every citizen of the country as “persons in loco parentis” and animals should be considered property. The court dismisses the PIL in its extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 32 of the Constitution and said that for the Court, it is not possible to declare that the entire animal kingdom has the same legal status as humans.
WHAT DOES AN ANIMAL AS A LEGAL ENTITY MEAN?
There are two categories of people in common law jurisprudence: natural persons, also known as human beings, and artificial persons, also known as juristic persons or legal persons other than natural persons. The law establishes juristic or legal people as entities with rights and obligations as well as separate identities and legal personalities. Animals with legal entities mean getting the same rights and duties as humans.
Legal Framework Regarding Animals in India
- The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, of 1960 is a broad law regarding the treatment of animals in India.
- The Wildlife Protection Act, of 1972 is a turning point in India’s history of wildlife conservation.
- Article 48A of the Indian Constitution guarantees environmental protection, environmental improvement, and the preservation of wildlife and forests. According to this article, the state must work to preserve the nation’s woods and wildlife as well as the environment.
- Every citizen has a moral obligation to have compassion for all living things, which includes empathy, kindness, and care for their suffering, according to Article 51A(g).
- Regulations against animal cruelty are outlined in IPC Sections 428 and 429.
- Rule 3 of the 2001 Slaughterhouse Regulations stipulates that animal sacrifice is prohibited nationwide.
Despite these legislations, cruelty towards animals is on the rise, so whether these legislations are sufficient or not is currently a matter of debate considering that NCRB chooses not to share precise information about animal crime statistics under the PCA Act,1960. Moreover, no separate records of statistical data about animal crime are included in NCRB reports under IPC Sections 377, 428, or 429. The only pertinent statistics made public by the Ministry of the Environment and no other ministry’s annual reports mention any statistical data about animal cruelty.
It is also seen that persons who have made a habit to harm animals also develop a habit to harm humans as well, a psychological disorder known as “Zoo sadism” i.e., Animal abusers frequently turn to injure humans after committing acts of cruelty to animals, which is generally a sign of a severe mental illness.
In the case of Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja & Ors. (2014), decided by the Supreme Court, emphasized the importance of giving the term “life” a broad definition that includes all forms of life, including animal life. It was also stressed that animals have a right to life. Life is about dignity, not just getting by or existing, or being valuable to people as a tool.
The Uttarakhand high court in the case of Narayan Dutt v. Union of India & Ors. 2018 ruled that Every member of the animal kingdom is a distinct legal individual with all of the same rights, duties, and obligations as a person.
The whole animal kingdom, including avian and aquatic species, has been found by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to be legal entities with a separate persona and the attendant rights, obligations, and liabilities of a living person in the case of Karnail Singh and others v. State of Haryana. The court further ruled that all residents of the entire state of Haryana are individuals in loco parentis and serve as the human face for the protection and welfare of animals.
ANIMAL PROTECTION IN OTHER COUNTRIES
Animal abuse is viewed differently in several nations throughout the world. The top three nations on the list of those with the strongest animal welfare legislation are Austria, the United Kingdom, and Hong Kong one of the best and safest countries for animals in Austria. According to the Austrian Animal Welfare Act of 2004, both humankind’s protection and welfare should be placed on an equal footing. In the event of a law infringement, fines can range from $2,420 to as much as $18,160 in circumstances of excessive cruelty.
There are certain special laws governing the legal standing of animals in the Civil Codes of various European nations. Animals are not objects and are subject to particular legal protection, according to Austria’s 1988-enacted Article 285 of the Civil Code. Additionally, it contains clauses that state that barring any contrary rules, certain laws about objects should not be applied to animals. The German and Swiss Civil Codes both contain similar laws.
NEED OF THE HOUR
As we know the PCA Act, of 1960 only put a fine of Rs.50 even for the most serious forms of nonviolence and there are many issues in this act according to current times. If India is to create a real animal rights framework, several other components of this act need to be reviewed. To classify the offences according to their seriousness and to define the appropriate penalties, an amendment is necessary. The most serious offences need to be made cognizable and non-bailable as well. Most Act violations are now non-cognizable, which means that without a Magistrate’s approval, the police cannot investigate the crime or make an arrest. This encourages police passivity and makes sure that the majority of animal abusers get away with it.
It was excellent when the Uttar Pradesh government passed the UP-Cow Slaughter Prevention (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, which establishes a maximum harsh sentence of 10 years and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh, to safeguard cows and prevent their slaughter. The Center is now required by this ordinance to conduct similar, stronger, and more efficient activities.
Animal rights hardly ever receive the respect they deserve in this nation, where it seems only human life is important. Does the Indian Constitution solely protect the rights of citizens? Do we owe anything to our nation, our society, or the environment in which we live? Do the people in this country want Mother Earth to be handled whatever we please? Article 51A (g) of the Indian Constitution outlines the fundamental duty of every citizen to have compassion for all living beings, but because these obligations are not legally binding, people tend to feel no obligation to anything other than themselves. All citizens are required by the Constitution to have compassion for all living things. The most defenseless among us must be protected. Our animal welfare regulations need to be updated if the Constitution’s commitment is to be seen as having any meaning. We have a moral duty to respect, defend, and stop brutality towards all beings in light of the increasing increase in such cases of heinous animal abuse and inhumane exploitation in the pet industry.
Author(s) Name: Pankaj Choudhary (National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi)