Animals are one of the most essential threads in the chain of life. The resources we get from animals have no near substitutes yet often the instances of animal cruelty are witnessed. For pleasure, fun and sometimes in the name of religion animals are bruta lly tortured and killed. There are laws and provisions to prevent the same but nevertheless the crimes increase in number each coming year. Animals also have honor and dignity that should not be unfairly stripped of, and their freedom and privacy must be preserved and secured from unlawful violence. 1Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja, (2014) 7 SCC 547. This article discusses about the laws for the prevention of animal cruelty and what possible measures can be taken to eradicate this inhumane act.
Human beings today have been greedy enough to sacrifice animals for their own enjoyment and desires, but they fail to realize that animals too have the right to not only survive but live with dignity on this earth as much as humans do.
Animal cruelty is the act of causing harm or injury to animals for reasons other than self-defence. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, states that beating, kicking, torturing or otherwise treating any animal so as to subject the animal to unnecessary pain or suffering is an act of cruelty.
India is a bio-diversity rich country and likewise home to hundreds and thousands of species ranging from Bengal Tigers to The Great Indian Rhinoceroses. Framing laws becomes of utmost important to protect the wildlife and their rights.
In India, many laws are enacted to mitigate the danger of animal cruelty for the welfare, protection and punishment in the cases of cruelty towards animal. Article 48A and 51A(g) of the Indian Constitution, Sections 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code, but the most relevant laws are the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA) 1960 and the Wildlife Protection Act’1972 at the Central level and cattle protection and cow slaughter prohibition legislations at the State levels.
Laws for prevention of Animal Cruelty
The Constitution of India 1960
Article 51(a) g of The Constitution of India 1960 makes it 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 all living creatures.” This Constitutional obligation to protect the animals is strengthened by Article 48A of the Directive Principle of State Policy, which states that “The State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution is the heart of all fundamental rights and is quite broad. It is also the liberty of people to care for or feed dogs, and if achieved in a fair way, it will not be infringed or challenged. Thus, the people have inherent and basic right to care for, feed or provide protection for an animal. In a case entitled-Animal Welfare Board of India v. Nagraja & Ors., the Supreme Court in 2014 identified the right to life as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India to extend it to animals as well.
Indian Penal Code, 1860
India’s official criminal code, which encompasses all substantive elements of criminal law, is the Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860. Sections 428 and 429 of the IPC specify that all forms of violence, such as murdering, poisoning, maiming or rendering animals useless, are punishable.
The penalty for killing or injuring an animal is stated in Section 428 of the IPC which reads as: “Whoever commits mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless any animal or animals of the value of ten rupees or upwards, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both”.
The punishment for certain species of animals is mentioned in Section 429 of the IPC which read as: “Whoever commits mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless, any elephant, camel, horse, mule, buffalo, bull, cow or ox, whatever may be the value thereof, or any other animal of the value of fifty rupees or upwards, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both”.
Section 378 of the IPC makes the stealing of an animal a crime of theft. Furthermore, Section 508 of the IPC criminalizes the penal coercion, which is to be prosecuted if animal care workers are unfairly or unlawfully prohibited from holding pets or feeding stray animals.
The foregoing laws were introduced to prevent intolerable animal pain and discomfort, and stringent provisions continue to be introduced under evolving situations.
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960.
India’s key legislation on cruelty against animal is found in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960. The purpose of the Act is to prohibit the infliction of excessive pain or suffering on animals and to reform the regulations on the prevention of cruelty on animals. The Act describes “animals” as any living being other than a human being.
The Government of India constituted the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) in compliance with Chapter II of the Act, with some of the following functions:
- Advising the national government on amendments and regulations to stop needless suffering when moving livestock, conducting animal tests or holding livestock while in confinement.
- Promotion of financial aid, care centers and shelter for old animals.
- Recommending the government the rules about treatment of animals in veterinary clinic.
- Providing information and awareness about the appropriate treatment of animals.
- Advising the Central Government on general animal welfare problems.
The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
The 1972 Wildlife Protection Act is designed to shield wild animals and birds, and there are safeguards that preserve the animals’ rights.
- It forbids the sacrifice of cattle, there is a strict ban against any harm to cattle under section 39 of the Act, and the punishment is alluded to in section 51 of the Act.
- A ban on having any Indian bird under the law is also in force. People must strictly comply with Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1956, if they want to keep a licensed bird.
- Police powers: Section 50 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 authorizes a police officer to arrest any person without a warrant.
Measures for Prevention
India has various provisions and laws to prevent the heinous act of cruelty against animals. Despite that, these laws stand weak because every other day news relating to cruelty against animals is seen. The recent incidents where in a pregnant elephant, cow and a jackal was fed some edible filled with explosives were killed in a fun play act by humans.
The big loophole requiring urgent action is that the amount of fine or restitution imposed under the PCA Act for any crime is very limited. The amount of fine that varies between Rs. 10 and Rs. 50 does not prevent animal cruelty. Also, the time of imprisonment is short as to teach offender a strict lesson. For instance, Sections 11 and 12 of the Act are cognizable, but the sentence of prison is very minimal, which is 3 months detention, and punishment is not cognizable under Section 38 of the Act, meaning that people cannot be detained without a warrant.
Through enforcing the tougher penalty under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960, the judiciary can perform a very effective role in avoiding animal cruelty, so people can take caution and do not harm helpless animals mercilessly.
There is a mechanism for the obligation for every state to set up a Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), but only a handful complies with the same. A further endeavor should be to enhance the service by creating and maintaining and reinforcing the SPCA in every state.
The understanding of the value of life and emotional attitude towards animals is necessary. This can only be taught by organizing seminars and awareness campaigns in both rural and urban areas.
Groups who advocate for animal welfare, such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), will do a lot if they get support from local groups and the general public. As responsible people, we must render our society’s children mindful of the innocence of animals and teach them to treat animals with dignity. Street animals should be supplied with food and shelter by state shelters and by accredited businesses and NGOs to ensure their safety.
The reports of deliberate cruelty have risen in recent years, in addition to human-animal conflicts. The majority of the human population does not see animals and other species as part of the earth. How differently people treat animals is shocking and tragic. The size of the animal and its religious value does not matter, for all lives are valuable and significant. People’s lust for money drives them to trade animals’ body parts for their own benefits. It is important to consider the significance of life and emotional attitudes towards animals.
Until individuals are able to embrace and value animals as equals, it is unlikely that gruesome incidents of animal cruelty will end in India. It is important for law enforcement agencies and societies to take animal cruelty crimes critically for the welfare of all and to ensure that animal abusers are adequately charged and punished.
Personal Comment: When you think an animal is being abused, it takes strength to voice out. Please call the local police and/or the RSPCA urgently if you suspect that an animal is in actual danger.