ANIMAL PROTECTION LAWS IN INDIA
BY PRANSHU SINHA
Wildlife protection is an important part of development of the country since essentially we’re all dependent on the flora and fauna around us either directly or indirectly. But humans under the garb of development have exploited nature and natural resources in such a way so as to threaten their own existence. In the last century, Forests and wildlife have seen a constant decline in their numbers, making various species extinct or bringing them to the brink of extinction. Indian Constitution provides for a comprehensive set of laws for the protection of the wildlife and forests. Article 51A(G) of the Indian constitution specifically states that “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures.”
Following the guidelines laid down in this article Indian government has time and again laid emphasis on the conservation of the natural surroundings and has enacted specific acts regarding and laid down regulations to keep any anti-conservative activities in check and punish the wrongdoers accordingly.
Various Acts and laws have been passed in this regard by the government such as the:
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act: The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals act was passed by the government in 1960. It was enacted to prevent pain and suffering caused to animals by humans and make such acts a punishable offence. The Animal board of India was formed shortly after the enactment of this act. It aims to promote welfare of animals and provide help to stray ones in need.
The Wildlife Protection Act: This act was passed in 1972 and was enacted by the government for the sole purpose of protection of wildlife in the country. It also seeks to control and prevent poaching, smuggling and illegal dealing of wildlife, its resources and its derivatives. There have been various amendment in the act since its inception. The amendment of 2002 made the punishment under this act more stringent so as to discourage people to indulge in such mal practices. There are constant discussions held which aim to make the provisions of the law more ‘animal-friendly’ and introduce rigid laws to strengthen the act. The objective of the act is to provide protection to the endangered species of flora and fauna around the country and maintain their natural habitat without any interruption from the human populace.
These acts give rise to the idea of ANIMAL RIGHTS. This ideology is based on the presumption that animals have some basic rights such as right to life and live with dignity without any suffering. Their rights are in no way less than human beings and should be regarded the same while in a court of law.
Some relevant case laws that changed the scenario for the betterment of animals are as follows-
In the case of PETA v/s Union Of India
It was held that any movie/film/short story which has animals in it and is meant for public viewing would have to obtain a certificate of no objection from the Animal Welfare Board of India. This ruling prevents animals from harassment or being in deplorable conditions while the movie is made.
In State of U.P. v/s Mustakeem and Ors
It was held by the Honorable Supreme Court that the custody of animals while a trial is pending, in cases of alleged cruelty would be with the nearest Gaushala or Pinjrapole until the trial concludes.
Nair N.R. & Ors v/s Union of India
In this case it was held that bears, lions, monkeys, tigers etc shall not be trained or exhibited as performing animals. The court rejected the plea of the petitioner claiming right to carry out any trade or business under article 19(g) of the Indian Constitution saying that the aforementioned section of the constitution was violated as the said business brought suffering and pain to the animals involved.
What to do in case of Animal abuse around you?
Killing/torturing of a human being is a crime punishable even by death if the case deems fit for it, however most of us are mute witnesses to animals around us being treated the same way or even worse. The reason for this being unawareness of laws and ignorant attitude towards lesser beings than us.
Overloading donkeys with bricks, exhausting the elephant and camels with over riding in a fair or at a tourist spot, whipping the horse and the bullock pulling the tonga, stuffing chickens in the cages at local meat shop, transportation of cattle and livestock on top of each other in trucks while being taken to slaughterhouses or even treating one’s pet with neglect i.e. not providing them with food or water or chaining them in the sun, killing, maiming beating an animal each of these acts is an act of animal cruelty under Section 11 and Section 12 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 (PCA Act,1960).
There are various steps one can take in case of animal cruelty in the area
Contact local NGOs: The local state society for prevention of cruelty to animals (SPCA) or any NGOs working towards the same may be approached (example PETA). Although NGOs cannot enforce the laws but they usually have the necessary means and ways to contact adequate authorities for the same. They can even get you through an animal activist who would help you file a complaint against the offender.
Contact the Police: Police are bound to take an action when a complaint is registered with them under provisions of PCA act,1960 or Wildlife Protection Act,1972 (WPA,1972). Killing of animals is also punishable under sections 428 and 429 of Indian Penal Code which may result in imprisonment for a term of 5 years or a fine, or both. Police officials are even required to help the complainant to approach the proper authorities. If the police does not take down the FIR, one can even approach the magistrate directly in this regard.
Documentation: In a complaint, one should be as factual and precise of their observation of the animal crime. Precise dates, times, locations and photographic evidence if any should be provided. It is usually advised to keep a record of all the officers one interacts with so that if they don’t adhere to your requests, one can proceed to the next level in the hierarchy to demand justice for the animal/animals you fighting for. Getting a vet’s certificate for the animal in question can be regarded as a good documentary and supporting evidence.
Follow up: One should always ensure that the case they have registered is being pursued and is just not lying there. Any sort of laziness on your part would result in the same from the authorities. So it should be made clear to the authorities that you are willing to pursue this case and provide any help that would be required of you for the same.
It’s undeniably upsetting and us as bystanders, if that’s the appropriate word to use, should certainly find a way to show people that this could be happening right next door to us and we would never even know. The more people that are aware of this abuse and neglect and also of the various laws that are there as remedies for such acts, the faster we can address this issue and make a change for the better, saving the lives of animals everywhere.
Pranshu Sinha is an avid researcher & writer and is currently the 3rd year Law student at Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University, Lucknow.