India being the seventh largest country in the world, is one of the most bio-diverse regions of the world containing four of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots. It is home to animals ranging from the Bengal Tigers to the Great Indian Rhinoceros; over the recent years, animal protection and welfare has taken a prominent position in the country.
The Indian Constitution under articles 51A(g) and article 48A enshrines- protection, improvement and safeguarding of forest and wildlife as a fundamental duty on the state as well as on the every citizen, furthermore, there exist several animal welfare legislations, for example, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, cattle protection and cow slaughter prohibition legislations etc. both at the Central as well as at the State levels.
ANIMAL PROTECTION LAWS IN INDIA
The 42nd Amendment to the Indian Constitution in 1976 was a progressive step towards laying the groundwork or foundation for animal protection in India. The constitutional provisions establishing the duty on the state as well as the government to protect animal have resulted in the enactment of animal protection legislation both at the central as well as at state level, remarkable of which being the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960.
Some of the laws/provisions for Animal Protection in India, are-
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960
Section 11 (i) of the act states that abandoning an animal to suffers pain due to starvation or thirst, is a punishable offence and the fine can go up to ₹50. Whereas, for a repeat offender, the fine ranges between ₹25 and ₹100 or an imprisonment of up to 3 months or both. However, it is evident that neither the fine nor the imprisonment is strict or rigorous enough to prevent people from harming the innocent and mute creatures.
Moreover, clause (h) of sub-clause (1) of section 11 states that if an owner fails to provide its pet with sufficient food, drink or shelter, the same would be construed as a punishable offence under the same section.
Indian Penal Code, 1860
Under section 428 and section 429 of the code, killing, poisoning, maiming or torturing an animal is a cognizable offence. The punishment for the same is rigorous imprisonment which may extend for up to 2 years or a fine or both.
However, the fine punishable is just ₹10 or above, an amount so minuscule that places no value on an animal's life.
Animal Birth Control Rules, 2001
As per these Rules, no sterilized dogs can be relocated from their area. By any chance, the dog is not sterilized, the society may ask any animal welfare organization to sterilize and vaccinate it, however, the dog cannot be relocated. Moreover, Section 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, dogs can be sterilized only when they've attained the age of at least 4 months and not before that.
Keeping, or confining any animal with heavy chain or chord for long hours, amounts to cruelty on that animal and the same is punishable with a fine or imprisonment extending to 3 months or both.
It's illegal to slaughter animals at unauthorized or un-licensed places, like temples and streets. However, the act of sacrificing an animal is specified under Local Municipal Corporation Acts, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and Indian Penal Code (IPC).
According to section 38(j) of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972- teasing, molesting, injuring, feeding or causing disturbance to any animal with the help of noise or otherwise is prohibited. Anyone found guilty of this offence may face an imprisonment which may extend to 3 years or a fine of maximum Rs 25,000 or both. In addition to it, section 16 (c) of the same act, makes it unlawful to injure, destroy wild birds or reptiles, damaging their eggs or disturbing their eggs or nests. The offender would be punished with an imprisonment of 3 to 7 years and a fine of Rs 25,000.
Section 98 of the Transport of Animals Rules, 1978, states that animals, while being transported should be healthy and in good condition. Any animal that's either diseased/ fatigued or unfit for transport should not be transported. Moreover, pregnant and very young animals should always be transported separately.
ANIMAL CRUELTY AND MORAL ETHICS
Animal rights teach us that certain things aren't right as a matter of principle, that there are few things that it is ethically wrong to do to innocent animals.
Human beings should not do those things, regardless of the cost to humanity and mankind of not doing them.
Individuals should not do those things, regardless of whether they destroy them in a humane way.
Any animal is not ours to experiment on, or to eat, to wear, to use for entertainment or to abuse in any sort of way. The abuse that animals suffer and endure at human hands is awful, heartbreaking, sickening, and infuriating. It’s significantly more so when we, humans realize that the everyday decisions we make, for example, what we eat, the kind of shampoo we buy—might be directly supporting some of this abuse. Yet, as hard as it is to think about, we can’t stop animals’ suffering if we simply look away and pretend it isn’t happening.
Despite various legislations, rules and provisions, there is still far to go in truly and genuinely developing a solid establishment for animal law in India. The provisions for animal protection in the Indian Constitution remain standard rather than concrete law enforceable in courts. Moreover, the punishments and fines under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 for cruelty against animals are just not severe enough to genuinely hinder crimes against animals. The law isn't strictly enforced and contains several loopholes through which liability can be escaped. Extensive reforms are the need of an hour in this regard to provide a stronger animal protection law for India.
Authors - Muskan Pipania, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow
Prakhyat Gargasya, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow.