“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”.- Mahatma Gandhi
In September 2022, a doctor in Rajasthan’s Jodhpur tied a dog to his car and dragged him across the city. The dog suffered severe bruises and fractured his leg. Where the doctor was charged under section 428 (mischief by killing or maiming an animal) of the Indian Penal Code, and Section 11 (treating animals cruelly) of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960, was released after paying a very small fine.
In July 2021, the Kerala High Court took suo motu cognizance after a dog was beaten to death by three people in Adimalathura beach in Thiruvananthapuram.
In February 2020, three men were arrested in Ludhiana for allegedly beating a stray dog with iron rods, throwing it from a rooftop and then dragging it on the road tied to an auto-rickshaw.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960, a law that was made almost 60 years ago, says that if the person is a first-time offender, then the fine would be Rs 10-Rs 50, and if the accused has done such an offense within the past 3 years, then the maximum punishment would be Rs25, and Rs 100 or a term of 3 months or both. So why the punishment and law against such cruelty towards animals have not been revised?
This short paper attempts to discuss the concerns around animal rights, particularly dogs, as such cruelty towards animals has provoked outrage among people demanding an explanation for not revising the law since 1960.
Keywords: Animals, Human, Protection, Laws, Constitution of India, Cruelty, Acts, Indian Penal Code, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 (the PCA Act), Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI).
Time and again debates have taken place revolving around the rights of human beings. But some philosophers argued against the distinction between what we consider ‘right’ or absolute right. The general understanding of rights is the moral, social and political protection that is granted to all humans against anyone who tries to breach them. All these rights, be it their natural rights or birth rights, Human Rights, or rights under the Constitution cannot be violated either by an individual or the state itself. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted unanimously with the rationale of guaranteeing all human beings their moral and ethical rights across the globe.
On the one hand, where humans, the superior species in the food chain are provided with all rights and violations which lead to punishment, the debate arises do animals, the lowest species in the chain also have equivalent rights? It is natural that rights like the right to religion or acquisition of property cannot be given to animals like humans, and hence the rights narrow down to basic rights like the right to live or the right against exploitation, such as being protected against hunting, maiming, domesticating, poaching or trafficking. But the question arises, do the animals have these rights in their being, or only come into discussion when the concerns are raised by the animal activist? In many cultures, including India, animals are seen as divine beings.
They play numerous roles, like mode of transportation in agricultural areas, pets as companions, etc. Humans interact with animals in different ways at different levels, and hence it would be right to say that humans live in an ‘animal world’, and visa-versa, with our lives interlinked. Dogs which are commonly referred to as our pets make it our responsibility to define and manage their behavior because we choose to adopt them or purchase them and as a result exercise power over them. Provisions for the protection of animals are widely seen around most countries, and India too has several such provisions for the safeguarding of animals within the Constitution of India. In general, from wild animals to domestic animals, the provisions in these laws discuss all types of concerns and rights of such animals. Still, India does not have any specific legislation guiding domestic animals in India.
Animal Protection rights under the Indian Penal Code
Despite several animals, brutality is witnessed in India, yet Animal Protection Laws are not strictly enforced in India.
List of Animal Protection Laws in India:
1. Section 428, Indian Penal Code, 1860- This provision laid down punishment with imprisonment of either for a term of 2 years, or a fine or both for whoever commits the mischief of killing, poisoning, maiming, or rendering useless any animal or animals.
2. Section 429 of Indian Penal Code, 1860- This provision laid down the punishment of imprisonment for a term of 5 years, or fine or both for committing mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless, any elephant, camel, horse, mule, buffalo, bull, cow, or ox, whatever could be worth or any other animal of the worth of 50 rupees or more.
3. Section 378 of Indian Penal Code, 1860- Highlighting the term ‘theft’, laid down that whoever intends to take deceitfully, transferable property out of the possession of anyone without the consent of that person, moves that property, has committed thievery, and the property, beneath, ‘animals’ are also included is punishable.
4. Section 379 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860- Laids down a penalty of ‘theft’ is imprisonment for 3 years or a fine or both.
Protection under the Constitution of India
1. Article 51A(G) makes it a fundamental duty to safeguard wildlife and speaks about having empathy toward all living organisms.
2. Article 48 directs the State to prepare agriculture and animal husbandry on modern, scientific lines and the necessary step for conserving and improving breeds and also prohibits the massacre of cows and their calves and draught cattle.
Along with the Penal and Constitutional provisions we also have the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 1960 which was founded by Rukmini Devi Arundale with the aim objective to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals.
The PCA act has been criticized by several animal welfare organizations for some time now calling it “speciesist”,implying the assumption that humans are a superior species deserving more rights. The quantum of punishment under the act is next to negligible by keeping a flat punishment without any gradation of crimes and terms like ‘cruelty’ is not adequately defined.
In Animal Welfare Board of India vs A Nagaraja & Others, 2014, the Supreme Court said that it is important for Parliament to make proper amendments to PCA Act to provide an effective deterrent, and also the punishments imposed under section 11 should be increased adequately.
Further in 2006, Kishanganj MP Mohammad Jawed brought a bill in the Parliament stating that the maximum punishment should be increased, demanding it to be appraised to not less than Rs 10,000 and further extendable to Rs 25,000, with imprisonment for a term up to 1 year & extendable to 2 years, or a fine of minimum Rs 50,000 extendable to 1 lakh, or both.
In 2021 another bill was proposed highlighting to expand the definition of ‘cruelty’ include events where animals are subjected to cruelty during sports and sacrifices made following superstitions should also be included in its definition.
The bill also proposed the term ‘cruelty’ should also include extraction of parts of any living animal through any procedure for the purpose of getting skins, oils, or any products and prohibit electrification of fences without prior approval of the law.
In April 2021 Center proposed changes to increase the penalty to Rs 75,000 per animal or three times the cost of the animal as certified by the jurisdictional veterinarian, and imprisonment of three years extendable to five years or both. The Union Minister for Animal Husbandry in October 2021 stated that they are ready with the draft amendment Bill and are in the process of getting the Cabinet’s approval.
Some experts feel that merely increasing the punishment will not help in decreasing animal cruelty because the gradation of crime needs to identify and should be defined properly in the act. With the changing time, it is important to focus on individual acts of cruelty such as people harming animals in order to gain media attention. Farmers putting electric fences around their fields to prevent their farms from being damaged without putting proper warning boards should also be considered as a crime. It is also important to look into the larger issues of disappearing natural habitats for animals due to commercial development and climate change.
- https://www.indiacode.nic.in/bitstream/123456789/11237/1 the_prevention_of_crueltyto_animals_act%2C_1960.pdf
The prevention of Animal Cruelty Act, 1960