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This article is written by Ms. Somya Jain, from the Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies. The article analyses various legislations that punish an offender when killing an animal. Further, the article has highlighted the role of the judiciary in expanding the scope of rights available to animals. 


Humans have dominated the animal species for a very long time and have continued to repress the rights of the animals to impose their rights. Animals have been forced to depart from their natural habitat only to be subjugated by the whims and fancies of humans. The animals are caged for the purpose of entertainment, tortured for fulfilling the “unrequired requirements” and traded for earning materialistic happiness. Considering the existence of those animals which are not much resourceful like the stray animals, humans have deployed them as being their properties and the concept of human morality with respect to animals have completely been disguised. The question that arises is whether any protection is provided to the animals and if it is, then what is the extent to which a person can be punished for his sins committed against animals?

Animal Welfare Laws in India that punish the offender

The protection of animals has been recognised in the scriptures of India. Traditionally speaking, ancient scriptures like Vedas and lores have clearly specified the need to protect and respect animals at all times. But, people failed miserably in observing these ancient writings in their real lives. However, providing security and ensuring their existence, by all means, continue to remain in the form of laws in India. Time and again, the government has tried to implement a robust system to fortify animals from all prospective attacks on them. Let us analyse these welfare laws along with their scope in ensuring the security of animals. 

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Constitution of India

The Constitution of India establishes a duty on both the State as well as on people to ensure security and conservation of animals at all costs.  

  • According to Article 48A, it is the responsibility of the State to improve the strength of animals and safeguard the wildlife of the country. It shall strive to enhance the population of animals and ensure that they are protected from all attacks. 
  • According to Article 51A(g), it is the Fundamental Duty of every citizen to protect and improve forests and wildlife and to have compassion for all living creatures. 
  • Due to the expansive interpretation taken by the courts, the rights of the animals are also protected under Article 21 of the Constitution. Every species has a right to life and security, in accordance with the law of the land, and this right is not merely limited to human beings but is expanded to include within its ambit animals and birds as well. 

Indian Penal Code

Indian Penal Code (hereinafter IPC) establishes various provisions safeguarding the rights of animals. Some of the provisions are:

  • Section 47 of IPC defines the term ‘animal’. According to this provision, an animal denotes any living creature other than a human being.
  • Section 428 states that if any person kills, poisons, maims or renders any animal useless of the value of ten rupees or above then the person will be charged under this Section. The person shall be punished with imprisonment of two years or with a fine or both.
  • Section 429 establishes protection for some specific animals who are most exploited in India. According to the Section, any person who kills, poisons, maims or renders any elephant, camel, horse, mule, buffalo, bull, cow or ox useless of any value or other animals of value over fifty rupees, then that person will be punished with imprisonment extending to five years or with fine or both.
  • Section 377 states that any person who involves in carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any animal then he/she shall be punished with imprisonment for life or for a term extending to ten years and shall also be liable for a fine.  
  • Section 378 deals with the theft of property and it includes animals within its ambit. Accordingly, when any person accuses an animal to move without the consent of the owner, will be said to commit theft of that animal. 
  • Section 503 deals with charging a person for criminal intimidation. As far as the rights of the animals are concerned, any person who prevents any animal caretaker illegally or forcibly from keeping pets or feeding street animals then the person will be charged with the offence of criminal intimidation. In a recent case of Dr. Maya D Chablani v. Radha Mittal (2021), the Delhi High Court recognised the various rights that should be observed by every State, authority and society. These rights include: 
  1. Freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition.
  2. Freedom from fear and distress.
  3. Freedom from physical or thermal discomfort.
  4. Freedom from pain, injury and disease.
  5. Freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour.

Further, the court held that stray dogs or community dogs have the right to food and citizens have the right to feed these dogs. But, to exercise these rights, care and caution should be taken so as it does not infringe any rights of other persons or cause any harm, hindrance, harassment and nuisance to other individuals or members of the society. In the present case, the Court has also established guidelines to be followed in exercising these rights in accordance with the guidelines of the Animal Welfare Board of India.

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (hereinafter PCA Act, 1960) is the first enacted law for safeguarding the rights and protecting the animals from pain and suffering inflicted by humans. Some of the main features of the Act are enumerated below:

  • The Act has established the definition of animals to include any living creature other than human beings and different forms of animals. 
  • In order to protect the animals from lifetime agony and pain, the Act has set forth punishments for offenders who cause unnecessary suffering and cruelty towards animals. 
  • The Act further discusses different forms of cruelty inflicted on animals, its exceptions and the process of killing a suffering animal, when cruelty has been imposed, to avoid any further suffering for that animal. 
  • One of the features that the Act specifies is the establishment of the Animal Welfare Board of India (hereinafter AWBI). Chapter II of the Act deals with the functions of the AWBI like providing financial assistance to shelter homes for animals, advising the government the amendments and rules essential for reducing and preventing any type of suffering, imparting education and awareness on humane treatment of animals, advising the government on the medical facilities to be provided in animal hospitals etc. 
  • The Act underlines the guidelines to be followed while experimenting on an animal for scientific purposes and exhibition of performing animals along with their offences.
  • This Act provides for the limitation period of 3 months beyond which no prosecution shall lie for any offences under this Act.

Under the PCA Act, 1960, cruelty against animals is treated as a punishable offence and punishment is imparted in such cases. Section 11 of the Act identifies various acts of human beings which are considered as cruelty against animals. As per this Section, any person committing an act of:

  • Beating, kicking, overriding, overloading, torturing and causing unnecessary pain to any animal, administering any drug or medicine which is injurious for animals, carrying an animal that causes pain, keeping an animal in a cage or confinement where no reasonable movement or exercise is provided to the animal, restraining any animal with food, water, shelter, abandoning an animal without reasonable cause, mutilating or killing animals through methods like strychnine injections, using an animal as bait for the entertainment purposes, shooting an animal when released from captivity, then the person will be liable, in case of a first offence, with a fine of not less than ten rupees but which may extend to fifty rupees, and in case of a second or continuing offence within three years of the previous offence, with a fine, not less than twenty-five rupees but which may extend to hundred rupees or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or with both.
  • This Section also establishes some exceptions to the above acts of cruelty. It states that the acts of dehorning a cattle or the castration or branding or nose-roping of any animal, destruction of stray dogs in lethal chambers, extermination or destruction of any animal under the authority, experimentation on animals, destruction or the preparation for the destruction of any animal as food for mankind unless unnecessary pain and suffering are immune from the purview of cruelty under this Section.

After 60 years of practising unchanged and unamended Act, recently the Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying proposed to amend the Act. Some of the prominent changes that are proposed include if a person commits an act of killing or shows gruesome cruelty towards an animal then a hefty penalty of 75,000 rupees will be charged or imprisonment up to 5 years will be imparted. Further, the proposal is said to raise the penalty charged against the first offenders from a minimum of 10 rupees to a maximum of 50 to not less than 750 rupees but extended up to 3,750 rupees per animal. Some other noted changes are:

  • A new Section will be added under Section 11. According to proposed Section 11(A), gruesome cruelty or life-threatening cruelty against animals will be charged with a penalty of Rs. 50,000 per animal or the cost of the animal. It also carries imprisonment for 1 year which is extendable to 3 years. Section 11(B) states that killing an animal would cost a penalty of Rs. 75000 per animal or three times the cost of the animal with imprisonment of three years which may extend to five years or both. Section 11(C) states exemptions to the above provisions. According to this, i) accident ii) in defence of self or property (iii) by an act of god or war (iv) any other unforeseen circumstance outside the control of any person are considered to be the exceptions. 
  • Further, under Section 12 the practice of doom dev or injecting any substance to improve lactation of milking animals the draft proposes to charge Rs. 75000 as the penalty with imprisonment of three years which may be extended to five.  
  • It also increases the limitation period under the PCA Act from three months to two years, as well as a new chapter for the formation of state animal welfare boards.

Wildlife Protection Act, 1972

The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 aims to preserve the wildlife species of both fauna and flora and establishes reserved places for their survival. The Act also lays down restrictions on various animal species to be hunted down. Some of the salient features with respect to safeguarding the interest of animals are:

  • The Act prohibits the hunting of animals mentioned under Schedule I, II, III and IV. In order to hunt these animals, special permission from the Chief Wildlife Warden is essential. 
  • The Act constitutes several Boards to deal with matters related to wildlife. National Board for Wildlife is a statutory body established under the Act that is responsible for advising the government on wildlife conservation, reviewing and approving various projects relating to wildlife, promoting the conservation and development of wildlife. A separate State Board for Wildlife has also been directed to be set up in each state under the said Act.
  • Central Zoo Authority is yet another body incorporated under the Act. It recognises and regulates zoos across the country and also establishes regulations for transferring an animal from one zoo to another nationally or internationally.  
  • National Tiger Conservation Authority was constituted in the year 2005 to strengthen the tiger reserves. In accordance with the Project Tiger, which necessitates the conservation of tigers, the Authority was established to guarantee a path of revival by restricting the hunting of tigers. 
  • Wildlife Crime Control Bureau was constituted under the Act to fight the ever-growing crime rates against wildlife in the country. The said authority is liable to collate and collect information related to organised wildlife crime and to disseminate the same, assist the government to render success in prosecutions of wildlife crimes and assist the government to frame relevant policies regarding the treatment of offenders.  

Biological Diversity Act, 2002

The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 aims to conserve biological resources, which includes plants, animals and micro-organisms along with their by-products and other species, manage their sustainable use and lastly fair sharing of the benefits accrued from the biological resources with the community. The offence of threatening a species under this Act will all be covered as cognisable and non-cognisable offences. The Biodiversity Management Committee constituted under the Act is responsible for promoting conservation, sustainable use and documentation of biological diversity including preserving the domesticated stocks and breeds of animals. 

Other Welfare Laws

In addition to above stated laws, there are several laws that treat cruelty against animals as a punishable offence. Some of these offences are:

Judicial Activism on the rights of animals

The judiciary has time and again upheld the rights of animals with a new perspective. The courts have very well recognised the need to protect and safeguard the interest of animals along with providing them security. In a recent case of Kerala High Court, the court renamed the case on a dog that was allegedly killed by 3 people. The case In Re: Bruno (Suo Moto Public Interest Litigation Proceedings initiated by the High Court in the matter of executive and legislative inaction of the State Government in the matter of Protection of Animal Rights) 2021, the Court observed that the name would in itself be a tribute to a dog that was succumbed to the acts of humans. Although the case is in the trial, the court directed the State to set up veterinary hospitals and institutions for treating the animals. Further, the State government should also ensure that municipalities and other corporations, that are imposed with a statutory obligation to provide dog shelters, cattle sheds etc. should be complied with. Further, the State government should initiate adoption camps and awareness programmes to sensitise people on the matter. The District Administration should enquire into the complaints of infringement of animal rights and cruelty towards animals and places where pet owners are denied to keep one in their residential apartments. The Municipality should erect signposts at the dedicated feeding spots in order to prevent harassment faced by the feeders while feeding community dogs. 

In the case of Animal Welfare Board of India v. A.Nagaraja & Others (2014), the Court observed that there are ‘five freedoms’ given to animals. These include freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury, and disease; freedom from fear and distress and freedom to express normal behaviour. Further, in the present case, the court held that bulls should not be used in any kind of races or bullfights and prohibited from practising events like Jallikattu which is a bull-taming sport. The Court recognised that Section 3 and Section 11 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals read with Article 51- A(g) and (h) of the Constitution of India guarantees the right to live in a healthy and clean atmosphere and right to get protection from human beings against inflicting unnecessary pain or suffering. 

In another case of Karnail Singh and others v. State of Haryana (2019), the Punjab and Haryana High Court held that the entire animal kingdom of their respective states will be considered a legal personality and have a separate identity with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person. All the citizens of the State were declared persons in loco parentis as the human face for the welfare/protection of animals. However, a similar petition was filed in the Supreme Court regarding recognition of the entire animal kingdom as a legal entity providing them all the rights to sue and be sued along with underlying duties. The Court served notice to the government and the case is still ongoing in the courts. 

In the case of Subhas Bhattacharjee v. State of Tripura (2019), the Tripura Court found the practice of offering a sacrifice of animals in temples of the state to be unconstitutional. The Court noted that according to Article 25 of the Constitution of India, religious practice can be restricted in light of other fundamental rights and on the grounds of violating public order, health or morality. The Court while upholding the fundamental rights of animals stated that sacrificing animals, in pursuant of religious practice, is against the norms of morality and is disturbing the mental peace of an individual. Further, as per Section 28 of the PCA Act, which secures any person from punishment due to killing an animal in accordance with religion or community, can only be applicable in the case of essential ceremonies only. 

In another case of N. Prakash v. State of Kerala & Anr. (2020), the Kerala High Court observed that the choice to rear cats, their breeds and the type of food to be given to the act is coerced under the Fundamental Right to Privacy under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. 

Recently, Karnataka High Court took a suo moto case on the gruesome massacre of around 38 monkeys in Bangalore. The case was taken up after people allegedly poisoned a group of Bonnet Macaques (monkeys) killing over 38 of them. The Court studied the reports that stated over 50 monkeys were stuffed in gunny bags and were beaten mercilessly and then were thrown away. 


Under the garb of modernising thoughts, humans have flattered themselves of their existence in the world, forgetting about the other stakeholders who are suffering at the hands of humans. The increasing number of cases of cruelty against animals merely shows the insensitive yet gruesome nature of people. It is high time when we need to understand that the word is a linkage between many prevalent communities including animals. Without their existence, humans would cease to exist. Therefore, considering the substantial role played by animals in our lives, we need to sensitise those who wilfully hurt animals. Proper implementation of laws is the need of the hour in addition to instilling the compassionate feeling in an individual. 


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