This article is written by Mehak Jain, who is currently pursuing law at the Hidayatullah National Law University. This is an exhaustive article that aims to explain and analyze the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and its need.
Animals are subjected to merciless torture and cruel treatment. They are forced into cages too small for them, kept chained up and hung upside-down by the leg, and killed by methods which are in no way humane. Morals and ethos are entirely forgotten and neglect and lack of emotion are employed towards their treatment. The Prevention of Cruelty Act, 1960 is an act that aims at animal welfare and was India’s first piece of legislation on animal welfare law. It lists down what constitutes an offence and aims to protect animals from unnecessary pain and suffering. The Act also set up an Animal Welfare Board, which overlooks enforcement of the Act and works toward animal welfare.
Need for the Act
Cruel treatment of animals
An op-ed by Maneka Gandhi in 2017 highlighted the inhumane and absolutely cruel procedure adopted in Indian abattoirs to prepare animals for slaughter, where cows, pigs, and chickens are hung upside down by one leg, for such long durations that they suffer pelvis fractures; and then boiling water is poured on them to loosen their skin.
The Times of India, in 2012, stated that most abattoirs used electronarcosis with a current of as much as 70 volts to render animals unconscious before slaughter.
In some locations, stunning is not used as a method. Instead, chickens are thrown in drain bins after having their throat slit, where they take a few minutes to die. In other locations, it was found that chickens were being crushed, drowned, burned to death. Debeaking is also a practice noticed in Indian slaughterhouses.
Animals used for clothing
The industry of fur products is very big, whereas, in 2012, Indian consumers were reported to have purchased approximately Rupees 8.6 billion worth of fur products. Most of them were domestically manufactured. In 2017, India banned the import of certain animal fur due to overgrowing animal welfare concerns.
Apart from fur, the market for leather is also huge due to poor enforcement of cattle protection laws. India is the second-largest producer of footwear and leather garments, as per a 2014 report. In the process of obtaining leather, cattle have to endure beatings, suffocation, broken tails and legs and being skinned alive in slaughterhouses.
Condition of strays
Incidents of stray dogs chasing and attacking school children, pedestrians, morning walkers, etc., have led to a violent response from locals. An inspector from the Animal Welfare Board of India has stated that dogs have been burnt alive or hot with iron bars, and these instances have taken place every month.
The number of legal slaughterhouses in India is unable to meet consumer demands. Illegal slaughterhouses operate because of the inability to comply with the stringent legal provisions. For example, the state of Uttarakhand has no legal slaughterhouses as of February 2020.
Dog meat is banned in India. However, in some north-eastern states such as Mizoram and Nagaland, the meat is considered highly nutritious and is sold illegally. Nagaland sees more than 30,000 stray and stolen dogs allegedly beaten to death with clubs every year.
All this has necessitated a need for legislation and laws, and the said Act provides for it. It has been dealt with, chapter-wise, below.
Chapter I- Preliminary
The first chapter deals with the short title, extent, and commencement of the Act. This Act may be called the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and is applicable to the whole of India.
It defines some key terms essential for the understanding of this Act, such as “board”, “street”, “ captive animal”, “doom dev”, “phooka”, etc.
The chapter also lists down duties of persons in charge of animals. It is the duty of every such person to look after and take care of animals and adopt reasonable measures to make sure that it is not subjected to unnecessary pain or suffering, and is dealt with in as humane way as possible.
Chapter II- Animal welfare board of India
This Chapter deals with details of setting up and the structure of the Animal Welfare Board of India.
With the commencement of the Act, the Animal Welfare Board shall be established by the Central Government and shall be called the “Animal Board of India”. It shall be set up with an object of protecting animals from unnecessary pain and suffering. Its power shall be subject to the provisions of this Act.
This Chapter also deals with the constitution and the reconstitution of the Board. The Board is to be reconstituted on the expiration of every third year, from the date of its reconstitution. Secretary of the Board shall be appointed by the Central Government, and the Board is entitled to appoint other officers and employees to discharge its service and may determine the terms and conditions of their occupation, provided they have the previous approval of the Central Government.
Contributions, subscriptions, bequests, and gifts, made by a local authority or any other person, and the Government shall be the sources of funding for the Board.
Functions of the Board
Section 9 of the Act deals with functions of the Board:
- To constantly study and suggest amendments in the law for the prevention of cruelty to animals;
- To advise the Central Government on making rules under this Act to further its objective;
- To suggest changes in designs of vehicles to lessen the burden on draught animals;
- To provide veterinary assistance to animals, as the Board thinks is necessary, by making sheds, water-troughs and the like;
- To overlook the maintenance and design of slaughterhouses to ensure unnecessary pain or suffering on animals is eliminated, i.e., animals are killed in as humane a manner as possible;
- To ensure that unwanted animals are destroyed by local authorities after being insensible to pain or suffering;
- To divert some funds towards the building of pinjrapoles, rescue homes, animal shelters, sanctuaries, etc. so that animals which have become old or useless, or are in the need of protection have a shelter;
- To cooperate and overlook the functioning of associations or bodies set up for the purpose of preventing unnecessary pain or suffering to animals;
- To provide financial help to animal hospitals and advise the government on matters relating to these hospitals;
- To spread awareness about the humane treatment of animals and spreading information against the subjection of animals to cruel methods of pain or suffering. This can be done by the means of lecture, books, posters, cinematographic exhibitions, etc; and
- To advise the government on any and all matters relating to the humane treatment of animals.
Chapter III- Cruelty to animals generally
Section 11 of the Act lists out acts that can be regarded as being cruel to animals and prescribes punishment for the same.
What comes under cruelty to animals
If any person:
- Subjects an animal to unnecessary pain by beating, kicking, overdriving or overriding, or torturing;
- Being an owner, permits or employs an animal which is unfit (by the reason on old age or disease) in any work or labor;
- Unreasonably or wilfully administers, or cause an animal to take drugs or substance injurious to it;
- Carries an animal in such a manner as to subject it through unnecessary pain or suffering;
- Puts an animal in a cage or any other receptacle which is insufficient in dimensions to allow free movement to the animal;
- Chains or keep an animal bound by an unreasonably short or heavy chain for a long period of time;
- Neglects to reasonably exercise any dog kept in close confinement;
- Fails to provide sufficient food, water, or shelter to an animal of whom he/she is the owner;
- Abandons an animal where it is clear that unnecessary pain or suffering shall be caused to it by virtue of starvation or thirst;
- Permits an animal which is diagnosed with an infectious disease to go at large in any street, or allows the death of such diseased animal in a street;
- Offers for sale an animal which without any reasonable cause has been mutilated, starving, overcrowded or other such ill-treatment and is suffering pain due to the same;
- Mutilates or kills any animal by using strychnine injections or any other cruel manner;
- Subject an animal to confinement for the purpose of baiting another animal or uses it for animal fighting with the sole view of providing entertainment;
Shall be guilty of subjecting an animal to unnecessary pain or suffering.
- First offence- A fine between 10 Rupees to 50 Rupees;
- Second or subsequent offence, committed within three years of previous offence- A fine between 25 Rupees to 100 Rupees, or with imprisonment to a term which may extend to one year, or both.
Exceptions to this Section
This Section holds the following as exceptions:
- Dehorning of cattle, or the castration or nose roping of any animal in a prescribed manner;
- Destruction of stray dogs in lethal chambers by prescribed methods;
- Extermination of any animal as per the provisions of the law in force at that time; and
- Matters dealt with in Chapter IV.
Other provisions of the Chapter
This chapter also prescribes a penalty for operations of practicing phooka or doom dev on milch animals(practice of introducing air into the female parts of a milch animal with an object to draw off any secretion of milk from it) as it is harmful to them. Section 13 provides for the destruction of suffering animals. If the Court is satisfied that it is best to end the suffering of an animal and that sustaining it would only lead it to more pain, it is entitled to direct its death to any suitable person for that purpose and if any reasonable expenses are incurred in the process, the same must be provided for by the owner as if it were a fine. It is important to note that no such order can be made without the owner’s assent, except If a veterinary officer in charge of that area gives his/ her assent thereto.
Chapter IV- Experimentation of animals
No provisions of this Act affect experimentation on animals for the purposes of advancement by new discovery of physiological knowledge, or to discover new information which may prolong the life, alleviate the suffering, or is towards making a cure for combating any disease, whether of human beings, animals or plants. However, if the Board is of the opinion that an experiment is to be supervised, they may constitute a committee for the same, they have to notify it in the Official Gazette and have full authority to decide the number of the members of this Committee as well as its procedure. One member shall be appointed by the Central Government too. The funding of the Committee shall be by contributions, donations, subscriptions, bequests, gifts, or grand by the Government.
The Committee has the power to constitute as many sub-committees as it requires for discharging the duty. Subcommittees shall consist of Members of the Committee.
Aim of Rules made by the Committee
Rules made by the Committee shall be designed to secure the following objects:
- In case experiments are performed inside an institution, responsibility shall be placed on the head of the institution. If the experiment is performed outside an institution, the individuals performing it shall be held responsible for it;
- That experiments are performed without inflicting unnecessary pain or suffering on animals and if possible, anesthetics should be provided to them to make them indifferent to pain;
- If, during an experiment, the animal involved has suffered so much damage that restoring it shall only cause serious suffering, it should be destroyed while it is still under anesthesia;
- Experiments on animals are avoided unless not absolutely necessary, for example, in medical schools, colleges, hospitals, etc. Tapes, models, and other teaching models may equally suffice;
- Experiments on larger animals are to be avoided if the same can be carried out on smaller animals such as guinea pigs and mice;
- Experiments are performed merely for improving one’s manual skill;
- Animals required for experimentation are looked after properly, both before and after the conclusion of the experiment;
- Records are maintained on the experimentation of animals.
Additional powers of the Committee
The Committee also has the power to authorize any of its officers or any other person in writing to report on experiments being conducted in a certain place, if they feel the same is necessary or if they want to check whether their rules are being complied with or not. Such an authorized person can enter any place at a time which he/she considers is reasonable and inspect such an institution, and require a person to present a record on the experiments carried out by that institution.
If, on such record by the authorized person, the committee is satisfied that the rules set up by it are not being complied with, then it may, after giving such institution a reasonable chance of putting up a defense and justifying their actions, prohibit such institution from performing experiments for a particular time period or indefinitely.
Section 20 prescribes penalties for contravention of any of the rules of the Committee and prescribes a fine which may not extend 200 Rupees. In case the experiment which caused the breach was done inside an institution, the owner should be held guilty of the offence and punishable under this provision.
Chapter V- Performing animals
This chapter deals with training and exhibition of performing animals. Only a person who is registered as per the provisions of this Chapter may exhibit or train any performing animal. If the Central Government has issued a notification in the official gazette, specifically prohibiting the treatment of any animal as performing animal, such an animal cannot be exhibited.
The Court is entitled to restrict the exhibition and training of animals in certain matters. If the Court is of the opinion that the exhibition or training of any performing animal is accompanied by the fact that it has to undergo cruelty or any unnecessary pain or suffering, the Court has the authority to give out Order against such person prohibiting or restricting the training or exhibition of such performing animal, or other directions regarding the same.
A copy of this Order must be delivered to the prescribed authority under whom such person is registered. Any person authorized in writing by such prescribed authority and a police officer not below the rank of a sub-inspector have the power to enter the premises of such person at any reasonable time and inspect it. If any such animals are found, they may request him/ her to furnish his/her certificate of registration. It is important to note that this section does not allow a police inspector or the authorized person to go behind the stage during a public performance of performing animals.
If any person-
- Who has not obtained a registration certificate as mentioned in the act and is engaged in training and exhibition of performing animals;
- Who has obtained a registration certificate but does not handle the animals in the mode or manner for which the registration has been provided;
- Trains or exhibits any animal which has been specifically notified not to be used by notification in the official gazette;
- Obstructs or wilfully delays inspection by the authorized person or the police inspector;
- Conceals any animal to avoid inspection;
- Fails to produce the certificate of registration, despite being registered, without a reasonable excuse;
- Applies to be registered by the act when he/ she is not entitled to be registered;
He/ she shall be punishable with a fine which may extend to 500 Rupees, or with imprisonment which may extend to three months, or both.
The following are exempted from the provisions of this chapter:
- Training or exhibition of animals for a bonafide military or police purpose;
- A society or institution which keeps animals in any zoological garden for educational or scientific purposes.
Chapter VI- Miscellaneous
Section 28 of the Act explicitly excludes and does not treat the killing of animals in a manner required by the religion of any community as an offence.
The Court has the discretion to deprive a person of the ownership of an animal if convicted of an offence. If the Court believes that apart from prescribing a punishment, the animal with respect to which the offence was committed shall be forfeited to the government, it can give an order to do so and further, make an order with respect to its disposal if required as well.
In some cases, presumptions as to guilt may be assumed. If a person is charged with the offence of killing a cow, goat or its progeny, and is found with the skin of such animal with any part of the skin of the heat attached thereto at the time the offence was alleged to have been committed, it shall be presumed that he/ she is guilty of killing the animal in a cruel and inhumane manner.
If a police officer, not below the rank of a sub-inspector, or a person authorized by the State government in this behalf has a reason to believe that an animal is being subjected to unnecessary cruelty or finds any person with the skin of an animal with some skin of the head attached thereto, he/she is authorized to search such person and seize any such skin or article or thing used for the commission of such offence.
Additionally, if a police inspector not below the rank of sub-inspector, or a person authorized by the State government in this behalf has a reason to suspect that doom dev or phooka is being performed on any milch animal, he/she may seize such animal and produce it before a veterinarian officer-in-charge of the area where such animal was seized.
The chapter also deals with search warrants and details of who has what power when it comes to the process of seizure for examination. It provides for indemnity, power of the Central Government to make rules, limitation of prosecutions, and delegation of powers too.
Treatment and care of animals
Section 35 deals with treatment and care of animals concerned under this Act, against which offences have been committed.
The State Government may appoint infirmaries to look after the animals in respect of which offences mentioned in this Act have been committed, and has the power to detain such animal for its production before Court;
- The Magistrate may direct that the animal concerned is to be treated and cared for until it is fit to be discharged, or be sent to a pinjrapole; however, if the veterinary officer is of the opinion that it is incurable, such an animal is to be destroyed;
- An animal being treated in the infirmary cannot be discharged without a certificate of fitness given by the veterinarian office in charge of the area, except, where such animal is to be sent to a pinjrapole or destroyed;
- The cost of transporting the animal to the infirmary, and its maintenance and treatment shall be borne by the magistrate or the commissioner of police( in the presidency-towns), provided that the magistrate orders so on account of extreme poverty of the owner;
- Any amount payable by the owner may be recovered in the same manner as an arrear of land revenue;
- If the owner neglect to remove the animal from the infirmary or refuses to do so, the magistrate is authorized to order for sale of such animal and use the money so obtained for payment of its treatment and maintenance;
- The surplus of the sale, if any, shall be paid to the owner, provided he/she files an application within two months of such sale.
Amendments to the Act
The Act was amended in the year 1982. As per the new amendment, cruelty to animals is an offence punishable by a fine of not less than 10,000 Rupees, which may extend to 25,000 Rupees, or imprisonment which may extend to a period of 2 years, or both.
In case of second or subsequent offences, the offence is punishable with a fine, not less than 50,000 Rupees, but may extend to one lakh Rupees and with imprisonment for a period which may extend to 3 years. This amendment is awaiting approval from the Government of India and as of now, the 1962 Act is being followed. That prescribes a measly fine of 50 Rupees for the offence.
Organizations such as the local SPCA, PFA, and Fosterdopt are actively engaged in this cause and help the general population in reporting such crimes and making sure that the offender is punished. Due to their efforts, a lot of change has been observed in the country.
Case laws and other instances
The Animal Welfare Board of India filed a case in the Supreme Court of India, demanding a ban on jallikattu due to the cruelty animals are subject to, and in view of public safety.
The Supreme Court permitted the Tamil Nadu government in K. Muniasamythevar v Dy. Superintendent of Police to hold jallikattu for five months, and mandated the animals involved to be registered with the Animal Welfare Board. The event would take place in the presence of a District Collector, who shall monitor the event. The Tamil Nadu government sanctioned 2 Lakh Rupees to be deposited by the organizers in case of injury and demanded the presence of veterinarians at the event to certify that the bulls were fit to participate and to treat it in case it gets injured.
In 2011, the Ministry of Environment and Forests issued a notification banning the activity altogether. However, the practice continued to take place under the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act. On 7 May 2014, the State Act was struck down and banned jallikattu. The Court held that making bulls participate in the activity was equivalent to subjecting them to unnecessary pain and suffering as they are not anatomically suited for such an act.
Cosmetic testing on animals
Millions of animals are poisoned and killed in the process of testing various consumer products on them. Animals such as guinea pigs, rats, rabbits, etc are forced to inhale massive quantities of test substances. It is an established fact that testing products on animals do not mean they would be effective on human skin too. Also, alternative methods of testing have been suggested too. However, animals are still subjected to this cruelty.
In light of this, the Centre has placed a ban on cosmetic testing, and rules of the Bureau of Indian Standards have been revised.
India’s position on animal welfare
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960) was India’s first piece of legislation on animal welfare laws that criminalizes cruelty to animals. The Act also established the Animal Welfare Board of India to ensure that the provisions of the Act were followed and to work towards the cause of animal welfare. Over a period of time, new laws placing restrictions and regulating the use of draught animals, animal transport, animal slaughter, and experimentation on animals have been introduced.
Positive changes since the inception of the Act
The Breeding and Experiments of Animals (Control and Supervision) Rules, 1998 lists out a set of rules to follow while experimenting on animals and using them for research. Experimentation on animals is also closely governed and monitored by a 2006 amendment, which states that experimenters must use animals “lowest on the phylogenetic scale”, use the minimum number for 95% statistical confidence, and justify not using other alternatives for carrying out testing.
In 2013, an amendment banned the use of live animal experiments in medical institutions. In 2014, India became the first country in Asia to ban testing of cosmetics on animals. In 2013, dolphins were banned to be held captive to be used for public entertainment.
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has released four new notifications in the official gazette under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in 2017 to regulate dog breeders, animal markets and aquariums.
Loopholes of law need to be worked out and strict following of the Act is necessary to improve the current status of cruel treatment to animals. People need to collaborate with animal welfare bodies and report when an offence takes place. Animals are deserving of humane treatment too and should be considered as living beings and regarded with dignity. The Act should be amended from time-to-time and the punishments should be made more stringent to act as an effective safeguard.
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