This article is written by Arundhati Roy, an intern of RTI Cell, iPleaders.
In India, cruelty towards animals is ubiquitous. Despite India being a country where animals are considered holy and worshipped since time immemorial, the fact that innocent animals are subjected to brutality manifests the pathetic condition of our society, which is not just devoid of compassion but the onset of an era where humanity is on the verge of decline. As per the report submitted by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organization (FIAPO) and All Creatures Great and Small (ACGS), 4,93,910 animals were treated with cruelty and became the victims of the crime committed by humans. This data consists of the crimes which took place from 2010 to 2020. However, the compilation has been made only of the reported cases; on the other hand, there is a profusion of unreported cases which never came to light.
The FIAPO presented the report titled “In their Own Right – Calling for Parity in Law for Animal Victims of Crime,” unparalleled documentation of brutality and cruelty inflicted on innocent animals by humans. Animals are a victim of various crimes, including rape, murder, beating, stone pelting, kicking, attacking with sticks, poisoning, wrapping them in a plastic bag, and suffocating them to death.
These are a macabre series of acts that the animals have to face every day at the hands of humans. Pertinently, the laws in India for safeguarding and protecting the animals such as the Constitution of India, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (PCA Act), Indian Penal Code (IPC), Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughterhouse) Rules, 2001, etc. to name a few have done a little in actually protecting the animals. In addition to this, the Animal Welfare Board of India has been established under Section 4 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 with the sole purpose of formulating and regulating animal laws in India, suggesting time to time changes in animal laws and safeguarding the animals from any form of cruelty. The present article has been written to expose the predicament of animals in our country and critically analyze the laws enacted to protect animals against the barbaric acts inflicted upon them.
Atrocities against animals
The FIAPO has mentioned in its report that all the acts inflicted upon the animals were gruesome and intentional acts of violence that either caused the death of the animal or an irreparable injury. Some of the dreadful instances of violence documented by the FIAPO includes a dog who was raped in Goa with a screwdriver; a monkey hung and beaten to death in Telangana, a street dog not just beaten but tied to a scooter and then thrown off from the second floor of a building in Ludhiana, nursing students in Kolkata poisoned sixteen puppies. Moreover, there is no cessation in the commission of such barbaric acts against innocent animals.
The report goes on revealing about 1000 cases of assault which came to light wherein they have recorded 82 cases of sexual abuse, 266 cases of cold-blooded murders, and more than 400 cases of merciless attacks of throwing acid or boiling water, beating, torturing, kicking, lacerating their body parts, assaulting them with a knife or sharp glass, feeding them with poison, glueing them with firecrackers and then bursting such crackers, literally burning alive the animals. This points towards the wide-ranging methods of murdering animals such as burying them alive, being beaten to death, being injected with chemical shots, strangulating them by ropes and barbed wires, suffocated, stoned, and left to die with their limbs and mouth tied.
It is to be noted that the report makes shocking disclosure as it says that it has recorded 20 cases of assault by children, and the year 2019 marks the year with the highest number of atrocities against animals. According to their data, mass culling drives were conducted across the country, which caused the killing of more than 4230 dogs. The report further highlighted that as per their findings, the street animals, especially stray dogs, form a substantial part of the target of animal abuse and mass culling.
Noteworthy to say that these are a mere handful of cases that were reported or somehow discovered; however, the real scenario is definitely not at par with the data available as most cases are never reported. What is disturbing is that regardless of how horrific or cruel these stories are, they are covered by the media or appear in newspapers & social media, animal lovers get agitated, file complaints, or try to find the accused, but eventually, a few days later, people forget about it these incidents. They either scroll past these stories or turn the page of their newspapers; that’s it! There is no action against these animal abusers or murders of animals even though there’s a law, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, which only exists and does nothing.
The year 2019 saw some of the horrendous cases wherein a tigress in the State of Uttar Pradesh was savagely beaten with sticks, and most notably, the act took place with her under a protected zone of the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve. One such cruel act came to light when a nilgai (antelope) video being pushed into a pit in Bihar and buried alive got viral. The story of a ‘Serial Dog Killer’ in New Delhi who allegedly beat, stabbed, and killed three dogs and a puppy had created quite a stir. Another video went viral wherein two children were throwing a dog in a pond after tying his legs. It is perturbing to see how sadistic people have become that they are obtaining pleasure from torturing these innocent animals and the extent that they either die or get permanent impairment for their lifetime. The point of concern is that these people upload these videos on TikTok to gain followers, and Tiktok allows such gruesome videos to be uploaded.
Recently in 2020, series of heinous acts of cruelty took place, which consists of killing a pregnant elephant in Kerala, a pregnant cow from Himachal Pradesh, and a Jackal from Tamil. What is common in these 3 cases is the means used for harming them severely by feeding them with edibles that had explosives inside them. The explosives that exploded in their mouths not just injured them grievously but instead gave them a painful death.
The National Crime Records Bureau, which prepares an annual report of crimes committed in India and further provides state and district-wise information on murders, thefts, assault, sexual abuse and harassment of women and children, violent crimes, does not collect any data about crimes of cruelty against animals. It is significant to note that as per Hindu mythology, cow, elephant, tiger, lion, bull, snake, monkey are worshipped besides the deities; however, at the same time, animals are treated with such inhumane behavior, which draws our attention to the very fact that the law has failed to safeguard the lives of these animals. Also, according to the Bombay Society for prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA), during five years, 19028 cases of animal cruelty were recorded, but the data collated by them revealed that there were no such arrests or convictions.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and its implementation
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 was passed by the Parliament and received the assent of the President on 26th December 1960. The sole objective for the enactment of this Act lies in the statement, which reads as, “An Act to prevent the infliction of pain or suffering on animals and for that purpose to amend the law relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals.” These words clearly define the purpose behind the formulation of this Act which is to punish the persons severely who treat animals with cruelty and inflict pain upon them. Section 4 of the Act provides for the establishment of an Animal Welfare Board of India in a way to extend protection against animals from unnecessary pain or suffering. Section 11 of the Act has been enshrined to identify the varied forms of cruelty to animals.
Nevertheless, the Act fails to provide an exhaustive code for the protection of animals from cruelty, as the punishments prescribed by it are way too lenient. People who treat animals cruelly are punishable only with a fine of Rs 10, extending to Rs 50 on first conviction. At the same time, a subsequent conviction within three years of the commission of a previous offense is punishable with a mere fine of Rs 25, which may extend to Rs 100 or imprisonment of 3 months or with both. In addition to this, the Government has been given the power to forfeit or seize or destroy the animal. Any contravention of any order passed by the Committee with respect to experimentation on animals is punishable with a fine up to Rs 200.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, was enacted during the colonial period and is an ancient law. The penalties prescribed by the said Act are not strict enough to deal with the prevailing condition. The law fails to truly deter the crimes against the animals. Furthermore, there has been a lacuna in the implementation of the Act, which gives leeway to the animal abusers, thereby getting away with crimes of cruelty becomes easy for the culprits.
Animal Welfare Board of India
The Animal Welfare Board of India is a statutory advisory body on Animal Welfare Laws and promotes welfare in the country. It was established in the year 1962 under Section 4 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ac6, 1960 (No. 59 of 1960). It is to be noted that the Animal Welfare Board of India was started under the stewardship of Late Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale. The Board has been set up to ensure that animal laws in the country are diligently followed, provide grants to animal welfare organizations, and the Government of India on animal welfare. It is considered the face of the ‘Animal Welfare Movement’ in the country for the last 50 years.
The Board consists of 28 members, including people from humanitarian backgrounds, Society for the prevention of cruelty to Animals, Animal Welfare Organizations, representative of Indian Board of Wildlife, a representative from Indian Veterinary Association, representative of Indian medicine, representative of allopathic medicine. The provision has been so made to include all these above-mentioned people to form the members of the Board so that animal welfare in all perspectives can be achieved in the truest sense. Section 9 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 lays down the functions of the Board. One of the Board’s key functions, as per section 9(a), is to keep the law in force for the prevention of cruelty to animals under constant study and advise Government on the amendments to be undertaken in any such law from time to time.
However, the Board has failed to perform its foremost duty as no amendment has been made until now in the Animal laws to deal with the increasing cases of cruelty or punish such animal abusers. It is with utter dismay to say that the Board has not been able to achieve the very objective for which it came into existence under the PCA Act, 1960. The animal welfare laws enshrined under the PCA Act, 1960 are so ancient that it fails to provide welfare of the animals. If the records are perused, animal cruelty in varied forms has been taking place everywhere in the country since the PCA Act, 1960 came into force and till now. If one goes on to find how many offenders have been punished for their acts of cruelty till now, not a single one. All of the offenders escape punishment with so much ease that even if they keep on repeating the same acts of cruelty, they are not held liable for such an act. Needless, to say that the PCA Act, 1960 as well as the Animal Welfare Board only exists for the sake of legislation. Otherwise, they have no other role to play.
The Constitution of India
The Constitution of India has imbibed in the form of Fundamental Duty under Article 51A, “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.” Article 48A of the Constitution, which consists of the Directive Principles of State Policy, acts as a supplement to the constitutional duty of animal protection. Article 48A reads, “The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.” Even though the above-mentioned provisions of the Constitution are not directly enforceable in the court of law, they can be interpreted by bringing them into the scope of Right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution, which is a fundamental right and has judicial enforceability. Regardless of these duties and directives of the Constitution, the animals in India suffer mercilessly at the hands of humans.
Supreme Court on Animal Rights
In the matter of Animal Welfare Board of India vs. Nagraja & Ors., the Supreme Court of India in 2014 had held “Jalikattu as cruelty to Bulls” and banned the same. The Court had observed that “Jallikattu, Bullock Cart Race and such event per se violate Sections 3, 11(1)(a) and 11(1)(ii) of the PCA Act.” It was declared by the Court that “the rights guaranteed to the Bulls under Sections 3 and 11 of the PCA Act read with Articles 51A(g) & (h) cannot be taken away or curtailed.” Significantly, the Court has held that the scope of Article 21 of the Constitution, which enshrines the Right to life, extends to animals as well in the following words, “ Article 21 of the Constitution, while safeguarding the rights of humans, protects life and the word “life” has been given an expanded definition and any disturbance from the basic environment which includes all forms of life, including animal life, which are necessary for human life, fall within the meaning of Article 21 of the Constitution.”
To conclude, it can be said that the present animal laws in India are not strict enough to penalize the offenders of animal cruelty. Also, the laws are not adequate to meet the requirements as per changing times. India should take the example of Austria, which is considered as the safest and best country for animals in the world.” The laws in Austria are some of the strictest animal welfare laws. The penalties provided by the Austrian Animal welfare Act 2004 in case of violation ranges from $2420 to $18,160 in cases of extreme cruelty. In India, beating animals brutally is reported to be the most common form of assault, followed by their incarceration and then maiming them. Almost 70% of animal cruelty cases are not discovered by the people or covered by the newspapers or media houses.
This proliferation of cruelty towards animals has made their lives not just miserable but has given them a lifetime of mental agony and suffering. Humans who are considered as the friends of animals have become their biggest enemies. It is the need of the hour that we get away with our animal laws, which have continued since the British era. The existing law that stipulates a fine of mere Rs 50/- makes it evident how valuable an animal life is considered. Recently, in 2021 a draft proposal has been made to bring major amendments in the PCA Act, 1960. The Draft proposes a penalty up to Rs 75000/- or three times the cost of an animal with a term of imprisonment up to 5 years or both for different crimes against animals. Pressing priority should be given to legislate more stringent laws, including raising the number of monetary penalties to safeguard the life of the animals.
In view of the prevailing circumstances, it is essential to bear in mind that strict laws are not sufficient to prevent animals from cruelty, but steps should be undertaken to impart the children with qualities such as kindness, morality, compassion, empathy towards animals and treat them with respect. The Supreme Court in India had ordered each and every state to establish a State Animal Welfare Board in Geeta Seshamani v. Union of India in the year 2008. The States should comply with the said order and take the initiative to protect the lives of innocent animals while penalizing the offenders. Every citizen should acknowledge that “Animals too have Right to life” and endeavour should be taken by each one of us along with the Central and the State Government to make the lives of animals cruelty-free and make this world a better place for them.
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