This article has been written by Gaurav Thote, an advocate practising at the Bombay City Civil and Sessions Court and Bombay High Court.
Animal Cruelty is an unfortunate and ever-increasing reality. Each day, thousands of animals are tortured, abused, mutilated, illegally hoarded and killed. Poaching and illegal hunting are glaring examples of how these innocent creatures are eliminated in an inhuman manner.
A recent incident would be that of the pregnant elephant in Kerala who was caused to consume a coconut infused with firecrackers. After suffering for 4 days, the elephant finally succumbed to her injuries. Her last breath in a water body is a jarring and disturbing memory for all. Needless to say, her unborn calf did not survive.
Pursuantly, a FIR came to be lodged at the instance of forest authorities and action was taken under relevant provisions of law. However, the fact remains that this incident is just the tip of the iceberg. Despite special enactments like Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 and Wildlife Protection Act 1972, a high-handed approach towards our fundamental duties is resulting in a prolific increase in the number of cases pertaining to animal cruelty, every single day.
Directive Principles/Fundamental Duties
Articles 48(A) and 51(A) of the Constitution of India dispense with Directive Principles of State Policy mandating the State and Citizens of the Country to protect and safeguard the environment including natural resources and wildlife.
Article 48(A) states:
“The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.”
Article 51(A)(g) states:
“Fundamental Duties- It shall be the duty of every citizen of India
(g) to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.”
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act
Pursuant to Directive Principles, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (“PCAA”), 1960 came to be enacted for the purpose of preventing infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals and to curb the menace of animal cruelty. The Act, inter-alia, deals with duties of persons having charge of animals, powers and functions of the Animal Welfare Board, punishments for offences, experimentation with animals and restrictions to be imposed on performing animals. Considering the gravity of offences, Section 30 was incorporated which contemplates presumption of guilt in certain offences under the Act. Chapter III expounds penal provisions for offences committed under the Act, enumerating the minimum punishment for the first offence with fine not less than Rs. 10 which may extend to Rs. 50 and in the event of a subsequent offence committed within 3 years, minimum punishment with fine not less than Rs. 25 which may extend to Rs.100 or with imprisonment upto 3 months or both.
Application of IPC and Punishment
In addition to provisions of PCAA, Sections 428 and 429 of IPC can be invoked in case of mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless any animal/s of the value of Rs. 10 or Rs. 50 onwards. The maximum punishment for such offences would be upto 2 years or 5 years respectively, with or without fine. At the cost of repetition, the minimum punishment under PCAA is fine of Rs. 10 and maximum punishment for a subsequent offence is fine of Rs. 100 with imprisonment upto 3 months.
Certain offences under PCAA as also Sections 428 and 429 of IPC are cognizable, albeit bailable. All offences under the Act are triable by a Magistrate of the First Class.
The Apex Court and High Courts have always stepped in and addressed the plight of animals subjected to abuse and cruelty.
In Karnail Singh v. State of Haryana, the Punjab & Haryana High Court was dealing with a case where transportation of cows from one province to another was in violation of restrictions on export of cows for meat slaughter. While taking the jurisprudence of animal rights to new level, the Court observed:
“The Corporations, Hindu idols, holy scriptures, rivers have been declared legal entities and thus, in order to protect and promote greater welfare of animals including avian and aquatic animals are required to be conferred with the status of legal entity/ legal person. The animals should be healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behaviour without pain, fear and distress. They are entitled to justice. The animals cannot be treated as objects or property.”
In Army Welfare Board of India v. A.Nagaraja, the Apex Court while recognising rights of animals under the PCAA, declared the TNRJ Act 2009 unconstitutional as it was observed to be inconsistent with the PCAA. The Court observed,
“32. Section 3 and 11, as already indicated, therefore, confer no right on the organisers of Jallikattu or bullock-cart race, but only duties, responsibilities and obligations, but confer corresponding rights on animals. Sections 3, 11(1)(a) & (o) and other related provisions have to be understood and read along with Article 51(A)(g) of the Constitution which cast fundamental duties on every citizen to have “compassion for living creatures”.
Parliament, by incorporating Article 51(A)(g), has again reiterated and re-emphasised the fundamental duties on human beings towards every living creature, which evidently takes in bulls as well. All living creatures have inherent dignity and a right to live peacefully and right to protect their well-being which encompasses protection from beating, kicking, over-driving, over-loading, tortures, pain and suffering etc. Human life, we often say, is not like animal existence, a view having anthropocentric bias, forgetting the fact that animals have also got intrinsic worth and value. Section 3 of the PCA Act has acknowledged those rights and the said section along with Section 11 cast a duty on persons having charge or care of animals to take reasonable measures to ensure well- being of the animals and to prevent infliction of unnecessary pain and suffering.
In Sanjay Shirke v. Union of India, a PIL was filed in the Bombay High Court to curb illegal selling of animals in Mumbai’s Crawford Market. The Bombay High Court took cognizance of the matter and directed the authorities to keep a strict vigil for enforcement of eradication of illegal sale of animals in the market. While finally disposing of the Petition, it was held:
“Our earlier order dated 10th April 2017 cannot be restricted only to Crawford Market Area alone. Whenever such activities are brought to the notice of any of the Corporation Officers pertaining to different areas falling within jurisdiction of MGCM or concerned police authority, they must immediately take action on the said complaint. Inaction of these officers on such complaints can always be brought to the notice of the Court. The directions in paragraph (2) of the order dated 10 April 2017 apply to all the concerned officers of the Corporation as well as Police.”
It would be apposite to refer to few incidents of animal cruelty which not only manifest the high-handed approach of humans with regard to animals, but also indicate failure to uphold our fundamental duties.
- The forest department of Bihar’s Vaishali District, culled hundreds of Nilgai in 2019 as they had caused substantial damage to standing crops. During this time, a video showcased an injured Nilgai being buried alive by the person operating the JCB machine. A FIR came to be lodged pursuant to which the driver of the JCB came to be suspended.
- On January 12, 2018, eleven monkeys were found dead near NH-8, about 66 kms from Jaipur. Forest officials stated that the monkeys were beaten with sticks and splashed with acid until they succumbed to their injuries.
- On June 15, 2018, hot wet tar was poured on a dog sleeping on a road in Agra, which caused half its body to be buried alive, leaving it to die.
- On May 25, 2020, a pregnant cow’s jaw was blown off by a bait bomb in Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh. A FIR came to be lodged under Sections 286 and 429 of IPC, Sections 11 of PCAA and Section 3(a) of Explosive Substances Act, 1908. The cow’s jaw was fractured which is why she was unable to eat anything for 13 days.
Notwithstanding the rule issued in Sanjay Shirke’s case(supra), Mumbai’s Crawford Market continues to illegally hoard and sell animals in gruesome conditions. Such illegal activities are increasing and have spread across various areas in Mumbai. Despite intervention of Courts, it would suffice to say that the directions issued are not enforced and merely exist on paper. In the occurrence of any form of cruelty, a violator convicted for a gruesome offence under the PCAA would have to pay a negligible fine amount and could easily get away with it. The perpetrated acts causing harm to animals not only constitute offences, but also violate the sanctity of Articles 48(A) and 51(A) of the Constitution of India.
The gravity of offences and alarming numbers of increase in daily cases pertaining to animal cruelty cumulatively calls for a need to incorporate draconian provisions to ensure that offences are reduced, and our hapless, silent victims are able to live freely once again.
- 2019 SCC Online P&H 704
- 2014 7 SCC 547
- PIL No. 73/2016
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