This article is written by Sabaat Fatima, from HILSR, School of Law, Jamia Hamdard. This is an exhaustive article that discusses the cruelty meted out to animals and how the Judiciary has routinely protected the lives of these voiceless creatures.
Mahatma Gandhi once said that if anyone has to find the moral progress and greatness of a nation, they can find it by judging how the people of that nation treat animals. There is no doubt that a country like India is home to various wildlife creatures. The country is highly devoted to serving its mother nature. The term ‘Fauna’, as per Roman mythology, is the name of the goddess of earth and fertility. So, Fauna represents the animal life of any particular habitat. At the initial stages, there was no direct provision for environmental protection in our Constitution.
The Indian Government in 1976 introduced the 42nd Amendment Act to the Constitution because of the rapid awareness of the environmental crisis. This amended Act introduced a direct provision for environment protection and hence Article 48-A was added to the Directive Principles of State Policy. This Article states that it is the responsibility of the State to protect and improve the wildlife of the country. Article 51A(g) places a fundamental duty on its citizens to not only protect the environment and wildlife but also have compassion for all living creatures. Cruelty towards animals is not new; there have been many instances where animals were inflicted with too much pain and agony. Human beings are regarded as ‘Homo sapiens’ and are classified as developed animals. They have indeed grown in various fields, but at what cost? Can we regard such development as an achievement, if we have lost our moral values?
India and fauna – the ones towards extinction
- Asiatic Lion: In India, Asiatic lions are found in the Gir forest of the State of Gujarat. They are on the verge of getting extinct as they are being hunted and poisoned to protect domestic animals. Moreover, they fall prey to farmers who have placed electric fences to protect their cattle.
- Bengal Tiger: The Bengal tiger, also known as the Royal Bengal tiger, is found in the territories of India, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Nepal. They are endangered species. Bengal tigers are hunted illegally for their skin and body parts as they are useful for Asian medication. For example, in China, tiger bones are used for treating typhoid, malaria, and other ailments. They are prone to poaching as they are the most dangerous animal in India.
- Snow Leopard: Snow leopards are being hunted for their skin, bones, and organs. These are limited to India, China, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and are found in the Himalayas. The snow leopard is the national heritage of Pakistan and the State animal of Himachal Pradesh. They are prone to hunting and poaching as their beautiful fur is sold to make thick coats.
- Kashmiri Red Stag (Hangul): They are found in the valleys of Kashmir and the district of Himachal Pradesh. As per the IUCN report of 2019, there are only 150 of them left. They have beautiful antlers and are prone to poaching.
- Namdapha Flying Squirrel: They are found in Arunachal Pradesh of North-east India. Only one specimen has been found of them till date last they were seen in the year 1991.
- Pygmy Hog: They belong to the family of pigs found in Bhutan and Assam; earlier, their presence was found in Uttar Pradesh too. Now, there are only 150 left in numbers.
- Kondana Rat: They look like common rats but their habitat has been destroyed by human beings in the dry forest area of Maharashtra.
Landmark judgments by SC in protecting fauna
Naveen Raheja v. Union of India (2000)
Facts of the case
The facts of the case were related to the skinning of a tiger in a zoo in Andhra Pradesh. This case was extremely shocking as after listening to the facts the Court was stunned at how the humans are treating the voiceless animals by inflicting sheer pain and misery on them. There was no protection given to the tiger by the protector whose obligation was to secure it and take care of its prosperity.
The Apex Court of India, hence, was of the view that it was very important to call the executive of the Central Zoo Authority to show up under the watchful eye of the court physically and to explain what steps and measures were being taken to secure and protect the tiger populace in zoos and reserved forests. The Supreme Court at that point passed proper orders in the said issue and provided important orders concerning the assurance of tigers. The Supreme Court clarified that it is important for the Central Zoo Authority to take an insight into this issue and make important strides to ensure the predicament of these voiceless animals as the situation wherein they are is very disturbing and a long way from satisfactory.
State of Bihar v. Murad Ali Baig (1988)
Facts of the case
This case dealt with the hunting of elephants. The issue raised was whether or not the hunting of elephants is legal under the provisions of Sections 447, 429, and 379 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Sections 54 and 39 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Section 2(16) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act defines the word ‘hunting’ as killing or poisoning any wild creature or hostage animal; capturing, trapping, coursing, and goading any animal; harming, obliterating, or taking any part from the animal’s body; in the case of wild birds or reptiles, harming the eggs of such birds or reptiles or disturbing the eggs or homes of such birds or reptiles or even an attempt to do so. This case additionally dealt with Section 9 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, which states that no individual should hunt the wild animals mentioned in Schedule I, II, III, and IV besides as given under Section 11 and Section 12 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act. A great emphasis was laid upon the provisions of Section 11 and 12 of the Act which gives the Schedule.
- Schedule I of the Act mentions a list of animals including amphibians, reptiles, fishes, birds, and insects, such as the Kashmiri Stag, snow leopard, Cheetahs, elephants, crocodiles, leopard, Indian wolf, black duck, etc.
- Schedule II of the Act mentions animals like dolphins, pythons, flying squirrels, bison, etc.
- Schedule III of the Act mentions animals like the Himalayan black bear, wild pig, nilgai, etc.
- Schedule IV covered under its scope hares, otters, swans, and a lot of other species of birds like owls, flamingoes, and cranes.
The Supreme Court held that an elephant is an animal that cannot be hunted as it falls under the list of animals given under Schedule I. It tends to be accepted that hunting an elephant is illegal. The Court also held that the word hunting as defined under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 is not alike to the offence which is committed under Section 429 of the Indian Penal Code that mentions punishment for killing, poisoning, etc of elephants, camels, horses, and other animals as listed under the said section. Hence, the two offences are contrary to each other. The court also emphasized the preservation of flora and fauna.
Tarun Bharat Sangh, Alwar v. Union of India (1993)
Facts of the case
There was an illegal mining activity being practised in an area declared as a tiger reserve. The petitioner is a voluntary organization that has filed a petition in the Apex Court under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, affirming that the State Government of Rajasthan has declared the Sariska Tiger Park as a Tiger reserve, yet there is an illegal mining activity taking place in the nearby area of the reserve. The petitioner also submitted that many notifications were released to prohibit this mining activity near that area yet the Rajasthan State Government issued licenses for mining dolomite, marble, and other materials and that such contraventions were mentioned in the notification released previously.
The Court, however, appointed a committee to observe various notifications which were issued concerning the protected area. After a keen study, the committee found out that there were 215 mines which were situated outside the area which was considered to be protected forest and 47 mines fell partly outside and partly inside the area declared to be protected forest. It further recommended that the mining operations within the area declared as protected should be stopped.
Contentions of the petitioner
The counsel on the petitioner’s side submitted that the mining operations in the areas declared as a protected forest should be stopped to maintain the orders of the Court and the report submitted by the Committee. They also argued that the license issued by the Rajasthan Government was ex facie and hence no permission was taken from the Central Government. It also argued that the continuance of such activity is violating the Court’s order, thereby causing contempt of court. The petitioner also submitted that the Government of Rajasthan is equally guilty of contempt of court because they did not take strict actions against the mine-owners.
Contentions of the respondent
On behalf of the State of Rajasthan, it was submitted that the State Government and its officers were not aware whether they granted licenses in respect to the listed mine that fell within the area declared as protected forest and that the notification released by the Forest Department showed that they did not fall within the protected forest area. It was further argued that the protected area was not known as there was no separation on the spot. Moreover, the State of Rajasthan had already down 54 mines.
The Court observed that this matter is required to ensure the enacted laws made by the State Government for environmental protection and ecological balance of the area. The Supreme Court took notice and held that mining activity is prohibited in that area which is defined as protected. It also formed a committee headed by a retired judge to make sure that the wildlife within that sanctuary is secure. Apart from this, the mining activities that were conducted outside the protected area but within the tiger reserve can continue for four months but if no permission is taken from the Central Government within this period the activity of mining in that whole area which was declared as tiger reserve has to be stopped for good.
Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja & Ors (2014)
Facts of the case
Jallikattu was a traditional sport practised in the State of Tamil Nadu which involved a fight between two robust bulls. These bulls are freed in the crowd of the human participants who are expected to hold these fierce bulls and reach the finish line. Whoever among the participants reaches the finish line wins the award prize, which was sponsored by various sponsors of the festival. This practice not only involved injuries to the participants but also to the bulls, who were meted with harsh and poor treatment by the participants. Some reports were also issued concerning the violence being inflicted upon the bulls and these reports paved the way for the Animal Welfare Association.
The Animal Rights Activists decided to take a stand against the practice of Jallikattu occasion though the supporters of this event contended that it is immoral of the Animal Welfare Association and the Activists to prevent an individual from practising their tradition. The followers were also of the view that by imposing a ban on the activity they are infringing their fundamental rights which are guaranteed under Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India, and hence such ban was unconstitutional and unreasonable. Thus, the Animal Welfare Association filed a case in the Supreme Court asking them to impose a ban on the deadly sport.
The Supreme Court decided in favour of the followers and submitted that Jallikattu should be allowed as it is their old ritual, but certain conditions were struck down by the Supreme Court. These conditions were that the Animal Welfare Association would monitor the event and if they feel that some cruelty is meted out to the bulls, then can take strict actions as per the seriousness of the incident.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2011 released a notification to the supporters of Jallikattu to stop using bulls as animal performers but the followers still practised their tradition, aided by the State Government of Tamil Nadu that passed the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act to continue this horrific sport. The Supreme Court, in 2014, after getting to know of this held that the law passed by the State Government of Tamil Nadu was unreasonable and unconstitutional. It, therefore, instructed the Union Government to amend the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty Act, 1960 and to set out guidelines stating that the bull is an animal and it should be included under this Act.
The State Government of Tamil Nadu went against the ruling of the Supreme Court in 2016 and released a notification to the organizer of the event to continue this practice. Then, on 14th January 2016, the Animal Welfare Board and PETA India decided to file a plea in the Apex Court to bring to the notice of the Supreme Court to release a stay order on the notification of the Government and impose the ban. The decree passed by the Supreme Court led to the conflict between the locals and the authorities.
Contentions of the petitioners
The petitioners’ side argued that Jallikattu causes harm to the bulls. The practice involved applying some powder on the bulls’ private parts, which caused a burning sensation and thereby incited the bulls. The bulls are also chained, beaten and subjected to other brutal practices causing them extreme trauma. As per the studies, bulls adopt fighting behaviour when they feel threatened; this clearly shows the behaviour of bulls during Jallikattu when they run away from people due to fear and pain. Bulls are abused, pricked, poked, harassed and attacked by numerous people. They have their tails gripped and warped and their eyes and noses filled with irritating chemicals.
Contentions of the respondents
The supporters of this practice carried out a large protest to ensure that the Supreme Court respects their views and comprehends that they are infringing their fundamental right. During the protest against the order of the Supreme Court, many protesters were detained by the Police Authorities. The Governor of Tamil Nadu filed a review petition stating that the ban was unreasonable and unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court maintained its stand and refused to uplift the ban on the practice. The State Government then passed an enactment claiming to exempt and remove Jallikattu from the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty Act, 1960 which got the assent of the Centre. The legal fight over the Jallikattu practice is still going on and remains unresolved to date, with the subject of its lawfulness springing up each time it is taken up for consultation. Notwithstanding, these legal challenges which were brought upon this traditional sport the game is as yet drilled and played with sheer energy by the locals and natives of Tamil Nadu. Though the Supreme Court has imposed a ban on it, the event is still organized lavishly and the coordinators spend huge amounts on it. The matter has even alluded to the Constitutional Bench and a lot of issues were raised as to whether or not such tradition of the individuals belonging to Tamil Nadu can be secured under Article 29(1) of the Constitution of India.
Are the judgments a good precedent?
After having a keen study of the above judgments we can say that the Indian judiciary and the lawmakers have highly prioritized the protection of animals, as they are voiceless living creatures who are meted out with pain and agony. So, we should support animal rights the same way we support human rights. Indeed, the Animal Welfare Association has not yet reached its top point but the judiciary is repeatedly struggling to uphold the rights of the animals, who go through a lot of vulnerability at the hands of humans. Animal protection is endorsed and supported by the judiciary as we have to safeguard and protect animals from abusive treatment, oppression, and confinement. At present, several disputes concerning animal rights have arisen and it is the job of the judiciary to emphasize the rights of animals. Animal rights can be considered as the voice given to animals to seek cooperation from human beings.
The right to have a life of dignity is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. However, this right is not just confined to humans, but also includes animals. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Rights Act, 1960, the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and the provisions of the Constitution of India are not enough to deal with the protection of animal rights, and thus there is an urgent need for the enactment of new laws. Nevertheless, the Indian judiciary has handled every case of animal rights tremendously by filling the gaps that existed between the laws of animal welfare and has, again and again, protected the rights of animals.
The collective responsibility of every citizen in protecting the fauna.
World Wildlife Day is celebrated every year on March 3. The United Nations General Assembly celebrates this day by creating awareness about global wildlife. The theme for 2021 was Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet. PM Narendra Modi tweeted by saluting everyone who was involved in the protection of wildlife. He also brought into notice the rise in the population of lions, tigers, and leopards in India. He also urged everyone to do as much as they can for the protection of animals and their habitats. Moreover, Prakash Javadekar, the Union Minister for Environment, Forests, and Climate Change posted a video of a cheetah that was extinct in 1952 and said that the present government is striving to reintroduce Cheetah and that this Big Cat will be a reality soon.
The protection of animal welfare is not only the responsibility of the Government but of the citizens as well. The more the individuals come up, the more will it be possible to take care of these species. Now, the question is how can the citizens play a role in protecting the fauna in India? The answer to this has been discussed as follows:
- Learn about how important it is to save wildlife and educate the same to your near and dear ones.
- National Parks and Sanctuaries should be established in large numbers to protect the natural habitat of wild animals.
- Illegal cutting of the trees for our use should be banned as it destroys the natural habitat.
- Take part in volunteering in your local national wildlife park so that you can help in protecting the place for the animals.
- Even if you are visiting a zoo do not litter around and do not disturb or tease any animal.
- Cell phones and other electronic devices are made from a mineral whose mines are placed in the habitat of the gorilla, so try to recycle.
- Never purchase products from markets that are indulged in threatening wildlife. For instance, fur products are made from the fur of tigers, polar bears, crocodiles, sea otters, etc.
- If you object to the way things are handled by the government then speak up. You can start a campaign for creating awareness.
- We must plant trees near our surroundings. Save water at your homes so that animals living near water can have a better chance of survival.
- In 2014, Prakash Javadker authorized the cutting of 325 hectares of forest for building a dam and a railway line through the Kanha and Pench Tiger Reserves. If the Government authorizes the cutting of trees then for every acre of forest, an equal area of land should be used to plant saplings of trees to make up for the loss.
India has a rich legacy and is gifted with assets that are valuable and endemic to the country, and which makes it a biodiversity-rich country. Thus, it is the responsibility of everybody to secure this rich asset and keep a balanced climate. Wildlife security and protection is a huge errand in India with the developing concerns of illegal exchange and abuse of wildlife resources. This target cannot be accomplished until and unless all branches of the government authority, residents, and local individuals living in and around the secured territories, non-profit and non-governmental associations, policemen, and the overall population cooperate towards the fulfillment of this objective. Some laws are sanctioned and are set up as of now, notwithstanding, the provisions of these laws are outdated and should be updated at the earliest, to guarantee that animals are not exposed to abuse on account of individuals who claim to be more reasonable and brilliant than them.
There is a need for powerful techniques and solutions for the protection of wildlife in India since the protection of wildlife is of great importance at this point. The state governments and the central government are needed to cooperate and carry out every important law and preservation strategy to secure the wildlife and prevent unlawful hunting and exchange of these endangered species and natural life as a whole. It is high time India realizes that humans are not the only inhabitants of this planet.
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