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This article is written by Gyaaneshwar Joshi, a student of the Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. In this article, the author discusses the relevant provisions under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 which allows for the penalties against violators.

Introduction

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. – Mahatma Gandhi

A large number of cruelties are suffered by all types of animals in every corner of the world. The World Animal Protection, a global organisation, has created the Animal Protection Index (API) where a total of 50 countries receive grades according to their legislation and animal welfare policies. It is the first index of its kind that indicates the scores of various countries from A (the highest score) to G (the lowest score). 

The Animal Protection Index released in 2020 placed India in the ‘C’ scoring band along with Spain, France, Germany, and Poland. Whereas, countries like the United Kingdom, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark have found a place in the ‘B’ score band. Iran rated with the weakest score ‘G’, and no country got placed in the ‘A’ scoring band. 

However, India’s performance was average in Animal Protection Index 2020 but the scores imply that India’s animal welfare laws at present are quite weaker as compared to other nations and the inefficiency of the current legal provisions is the reason behind the rising incidents of animal abuse in the country. 

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act, 1960: a glance

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act, 1960 is one of the most comprehensive laws on the subject of animal welfare in India. It is an Act of the Parliament passed on 26 December 1960 with a vision to prevent cruelties on animals.

The main objective of the Act is:

  1. The Act prevents unnecessary pain or suffering on animals.
  2. The Act enshrines provisions for establishing the Animal Welfare Board of India, its powers, functions, constitution, and term of the office of members of the Board. 
  3. The Act enshrines the guidelines regarding the experimentation on animals for scientific purposes and empowers a committee to make rules with regards to such experiments.
  4. The Act restricts the exhibition and training of performing animals. Both the terms ‘exhibit’ and ‘train’ are separately defined under Section 21 of the Act. 

Various forms of cruelty and their punishment

The PCA Act, 1960 provisions empower law enforcement agencies, animal welfare workers, and citizens who care for animals to take action against the culprits. As far as animal welfare laws are concerned, all acts of cruelty are covered under Section 11 of the Act. Section 11 of the PCA Act, 1960 deals with various forms of cruelties and atrocities perpetrated on both, domesticated and wild animals. This section has 16 sub-sections dealing with the different forms of cruelty, under which a person is liable for a fine of ten rupees, which may extend to fifty rupees. Whereas, in the subsequent offence, i.e. the offence committed within three years of the previous offence, shall be punishable with three months imprisonment and a minimum fine of twenty-five rupees which may extend up to one hundred rupees.

The categories of offences under Section 11 are as follows:

SECTION 11(1)(a): Causing pain, suffering, or injury to an animal.

Any person treating an animal which results in unnecessary pain, suffering, and injury to that animal. It includes acts like beating, kicking, overriding, overdriving, overloading, and torturing the animal as an offence. 

SECTION 11(1)(b): Employing any unfit animal for work or labour.

Any person taking work from or has employed a sick, infirm, or wounded animal is an offence. A complaint can be filed against anyone who uses an animal suffering from any disease, infirmity, wound, or other causes which render the animal unfit for any kind of work or labour.

SECTION 11(1)(c): Administering any injurious drug or substance.

It is illegal to willfully and unreasonably administer any injurious drug or substance to any domestic or captive animal. This section also prohibits forcing an animal to take such drugs and substances. For example, using Oxytocin injection by dairymen on cows or buffaloes to increase milk production is illegal unless taken under the proper prescription of a veterinary doctor. 

SECTION 11(1)(d): Carrying or transporting animals in a cruel manner.

This section forbids carrying or transporting any animal in such a manner as to subject them to pain and suffering. It applies to the transportation of animals through vehicles or walking them on foot. As per the rules mentioned under the PCA Act 1960, a lorry can carry up to six adult cattle, and a goods wagon cannot carry more than ten cattle. 

SECTION 11(1)(e): Housing an animal in a place that hampers free movement.

Keeping or confining any animal in any cage or enclosure of insufficient size failing to permit the animal a reasonable opportunity for movement is an offence. 

SECTION 11(1)(f): Restricting animal’s movement by using heavy chain or chord.

This section made it illegal to keep any animal chained, tethered for an unreasonable time. 

SECTION 11(1)(g): Habitually chaining up of a pet dog by an owner.

If a pet or a dog owner does not exercise their pet dog or is habitually chaining up or keeping a dog in close confinement is an offence. For example, all dog owners are legally bound to take their companion dogs on a daily 30-minute walk in Germany.

  • SECTION 11(1)(h): Sufficient food, drink, or shelter.

It is the responsibility of the owner of any animal to provide sufficient food, drink, and shelter. 

SECTION 11(1)(i): Abandoning an animal.

If a person abandons any animal, which renders that animal to suffer pain either due to starvation or thirst is an offence.

SECTION 11(1)(j): Allowing a sick/injured animal to go at large in the streets.

Suppose a person permits any animal to go at large or roam freely in the streets while that animal suffers from any contagious or infectious disease. This section also forbids a person to abandon any diseased or disabled animal to die in the streets. 

SECTION 11(1)(k): Selling any animal suffering from pain.

Selling or possessing any animal suffering pain due to mutilation, starvation, thirst, overcrowding or other ill-treatment is an offence. 

SECTION 11(1)(l): Mutilate or kill any animal.

This section made those activities punishable which includes mutilation or killing of any animal including stray dogs by using the method such as strychnine injections, or any cruel practices. 

SECTION 11(1)(m): Animal used for entertainment purposes.

Using an animal solely for entertainment is an offence under this section. This section strictly forbids confining any animal, including tying an animal as bait in a tiger or wildlife century, to make that animal an object of prey. It completely restricts provoking any animal to fight or bait any other animal simply for entertainment purposes.

SECTION 11(1)(n): Organising or managing a place for conducting animal fights.

A person shall be held guilty for selling the land or premises for conducting animal fights. This section also prohibits a person from organising animal fights and collecting money from spectators as entry fees.

SECTION 11(1)(o): Promoting or participating in a shooting competition.

This section prohibits any kind of promotion or participation in a shooting competition that involves animals. There are some activities where animals are released from captivity for such shootings.

Most of the offences committed under Section 11 are non-cognizable, which means the offender can be arrested only after obtaining an arrest warrant from the Judicial officer. However, offences committed under Section 11 sub-section 1 clause (l), (n), (o) are classified as cognizable offences (under Section 31 of the Act), and police can arrest a culprit without any warrant. The violation of Section 12 is also a cognizable offence, which forbids activities like ‘doom dev’ or ‘phooka’ performed upon any cow or milch animal to improve lactation. It contains an imprisonment term for a maximum of two years, with a fine which may extend up to one thousand rupees.

How to file a complaint?

It is the responsibility of every citizen to protect animal rights. Any person who witnessed the cruelty against an animal can report the matter to a local police station or SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and seek their help in enforcing the law for punishing the offender. If the police are unresponsive, then a complainant can reach a nearby NGO like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and they will assist to take a stand against animal cruelty. 

Animal cruelty complaints can be directly reported to:

  1. Local police station.
  2. SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). 
  3. Senior Government officials at the State or District Animal Welfare Board.
  4. Area MLA.

A person can file an FIR against the culprit and provide police with a concise written statement and photograph of the situation (if available). A culprit can be charged under Sections 428 and 429 of the IPC, both are regarded as cognizable and bailable offences.

  1. Section 428: Whoever commits mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming, or rendering useless any animal of the value of ten rupees or upwards shall be punishable with imprisonment of a maximum of two years with fine, or with both.
  2. Section 429: Whoever commits mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming, or rendering useless any animal of the value of fifty rupees or upwards shall be punishable with imprisonment of a term which may extend up to five years, or with fine, or both.

Both the above provisions defined under Chapter XVII of the IPC apply only to animals with any monetary value (be it above ten rupees or fifty rupees as mentioned under Section 428 and 429). These provisions hardly attract a crime committed on stray animals because they are not household pets and do not hold any monetary value. Therefore, if any cruelty happens to a stray animal, it is very tough to apply these provisions because that animal is not purchased from a pet shop and hence does not carry a monetary value nor can be classified as someone’s property.

Several NGOs are providing access through their websites to register an online complaint of animal abuse. Any complainant can directly visit the websites of animal welfare organisations to get their assistance regarding the filing of a complaint. There are several organisations under which online complaints can be easily filed:

Authority Link to file an online complaint Contact Details
The Pet Nest https://thepetnest.com/report-animal-abuse  Mob: +91 935 407 4426

Official website: https://thepetnest.com/ 

Society For Animal Safety, India https://www.sasindia.org/report-a-case/  Mob: +91 909 681 0771

Official website: https://www.sasindia.org/ 

Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre (SGACC) http://sanjaygandhianimalcarecentre.org/complaints.html  Tel: 011-25447751/25448062

Email: [email protected]

Official website: http://sanjaygandhianimalcarecentre.org/index.html 

Offences and penalties

Section 11(2) of the PCA Act, 1960 makes it obligatory for animal owners to exercise due care and supervision to prevent cruelty against animals owned by them. If they failed to follow these obligations, they shall be held guilty. 

Inflicting any form of cruelty on animals is an offence under section 11 of the Act. The commission of the first offence has a maximum fine of fifty rupees per animal. In the case of subsequent offence within three years is punishable for a fine of a maximum of one hundred rupees and three months of imprisonment or both. The court can order for the forfeiture of an animal subjected to cruelty, and after that, the animal is considered government property. The court can also prohibit the convicted person from having custody of any animal. This ban can be permanent or either for a fixed period and decided by the court.

Restrictions by the Indian Government to secure animal rights

There are several provisions under the PCA Act, 1960 which provide complete protection to animals against any form of cruelty but are mostly considered outdated, with low penalties. Their lack of implementation has led to an increase in the number of animal cruelty cases. The definition of cruelty is vaguely defined in India’s animal protection laws. 

The writ petition of Sankalp Santosh Golatkar v. Union of India & Ors (2020) was filed in the Supreme Court to modify the penal provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. This petition states that over 24,000 cases of cruelty to animals have been registered under the Act from 2012 to 2015. The petitioner has also mentioned the illegal consumption of dog meat that is mostly followed in northeast states. According to the data provided in the petition, every year around 30,000 stray and stolen dogs are brutally killed for their meat in northeastern states like Mizoram and Nagaland. 

Currently, several legislations are working to keep a check on brutal treatment against animals. The Government of India has taken measurable steps to ensure better treatment of animals. In 2017, the Central Government banned various forms of entertainment using wild animals and restricted the use of animals in circuses. India became the first South Asian country to ban the use of cosmetic products on animals in 2013 and subsequently banned the import of cosmetic products tested on animals in 2014. India made impressive progress in protecting animals used in scientific research and approved them to use only under certain conditions as per Section 14 of the PCA Act.

In India, it is the fundamental duty of every citizen to have compassion for all living creatures. The Indian Constitution recognises animal rights under Article 51(A)(g) and Article 48(A), that mandate every Indian citizen to show compassion towards animals and wildlife.

  1. Article 48A: The state shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the wildlife.
  2. Article 51(A)(g): To protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.

Legislations regarding animal welfare in India

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 

With the adoption of the PCA Act, India became one of the first countries to enact a comprehensive law against animal cruelty. The Act defines the term ‘Animals’ as all species of animals (except human beings). However, the term cruelty has not been precisely defined under the Act, but roughly it means the infliction of unnecessary pain and suffering. This Act provides for the constitution of a committee to look after the various aspects of experimentation on animals, i.e. to supervise and control their use of experimentation so that animals can be saved from the sufferance of avoidable pains.

The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972

The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 is a hallmark in the history of wildlife protection in India. This Act came into force on 9 September 1972 and consists of 60 sections and VI schedules- divided into eight chapters. The term ‘wildlife’ is defined under Section 2(37) as ‘Any animal, aquatic or land vegetation which forms part of any habitat’. The Act was implemented to ensure the protection of India’s wildlife (both territorial and aquatic) and their habitats.

As per Section 62 of the Act, States can send a list of wild animals to the Centre requesting to declare them vermin for selective slaughter. This Act empowers the Central Government to declare any wild animal (other than those specified in Schedule I and Part 11 of Schedule H) to be vermin for any area for a given period. 

While the Act ensures the protection of wildlife animals, unfortunately, animals do not enjoy specific protections under the Act. 

Draft Animal Welfare Act, 2011

On 11 August, 2010, the Minister of Environment and Forests assured the Lok Sabha to enact a Bill titled ‘Animal Welfare Act’ to provide steeper penalties for animal cruelty in India. Therefore, the Animal Welfare Board of India introduced a draft Bill titled ‘Animal Welfare Act, 2011’ to repeal the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act, 1960. The Bill was drafted to enlarge the definition of animal abuse and introduce greater and apt penalties for cruelty towards animals. 

For the first offence, there is a punishment for imprisonment of up to two years and a maximum fine of twenty-five thousand rupees. In the case of a subsequent offence, the punishment shall be of a maximum of three years imprisonment and a fine which may extend to one lakh rupees. This Bill is yet to be passed by Parliament.

In 2016, the AWBI drew up a new draft, i.e. the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Amendment) Bill, 2016, considering the recent rise in the incidents of animal abuse and the scant punishments given under the ruling PCA Act, 1960. The AWB and several NGOs appealed to the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change to consider this Bill in Parliament. However, the Bill has not yet been passed.

A way forward towards better development

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act has not been revised since 1960. The culprits can easily get away with killing, maiming, beating a stray animal for a fine of merely fifty rupees. In almost all progressive countries, there are laws to save the animals from the infliction of unnecessary pain and suffering, or in other words, to prevent man from behaving cruelly to animals. 

Different countries have adopted different ways to deal with animal abuse, which makes some of them the best countries for animals to live in. Austria is considered one of the best countries for animals that have the most robust anti-cruelty laws. The Austrian Animal Welfare Act, 2004 strictly prohibits pet owners from cropping the ears or tails of their pets, forces farmers to uncage their chickens, and forbids puppies and kittens to be showcased in pet shop windows. Similarly in the United Kingdom, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill, 2021 after receiving royal assent on 29 June 2021 has now increased the maximum imprisonment for animal cruelty from six months to five years. Also, the fine has been increased from £5,000 to £20,000. 

The implementation of strict laws has made some of these countries perform better than India in the Animal Protection Index, 2020. However, India could not perform well due to some of the disgraceful incidents of animal cruelty that happened in some of the states in the past few years. Therefore, it is high time for the central government to amend the existing animal-protection laws since the old provisions have become ineffective in current times. 

Some animal-friendly countries in the world

The Universal Declaration of Animal Rights was proclaimed in the UNESCO centre in Paris on 15 September 1978. The primary purpose of the declaration was to recognize that all animals are born equal and have equal rights to live. 

Based on the Animal Protection Index, the top five animal-friendly countries are- Austria, New Zealand, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Chile. However, no country at present offers full protection for animals of all kinds. Some countries are making progress in implementing strict animal welfare laws but still require that all animals live a free and happy life. 

Here are some of the countries which have implemented strict animal welfare laws to ensure better protection of their animals.

Austria

Austria has the most strict laws about animal rights. The Austrian Animal Welfare Act, 2004 restricts animals to feel pain and fear. The Act states that “animals are creatures under the responsibility of humans” and all animals should be held to a value that is equal to humankind. 

Switzerland

Switzerland became the first country to constitutionally recognize animals. The provision in the Constitution provides for the protection of ‘the dignity of the creature’. The Switzerland government mandates social animals such as guinea pigs, parrots, and mice to be kept at least in pairs for their well-being. It is illegal under Swiss law to stop a dog from barking and requires every pet owner to attend classes before the adoption of their pets.

Netherlands

The Animal Welfare Act of the Netherlands includes farm animals in anti-cruelty laws and duty of care provisions. The Netherlands is the first country in the world to have a political party for the animals, prioritizing the interest of all earth inhabitants with about 80 representatives at European, national, regional, and local levels. 

Poland

According to Poland’s Animal Protection Act, if anyone finds an abandoned dog or cat shall be required to notify an animal shelter, fire authority or police. Poland also introduced a retirement benefits plan for service dogs and horses in which the government will cover the costs and their lifelong food and medical care after they retire. 

Conclusion

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, is archaic and fails to safeguard animals because the current penalties are too weak to deter people from abusing animals. Animals used in scientific research are exempted from cruelty considerations. There is a lack of regulations regarding the rearing of farm animals, such as unregulated urban dairy systems which are growing rapidly with poor welfare standards.

Currently, India needs stronger animal-protection laws to prevent cruelties because a measly maximum fine of only fifty or one hundred rupees was inserted into the law more than a half-century ago and it desperately needs to be improved with the current times.

Therefore, the government must strengthen India’s animal-protection laws and ensure that people who abuse animals receive long-term jail, significant fines, and psychological counselling and are banned from having contact with animals. 

References


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