This week guest writer Aditi Bardia explores animal protection laws in India. Background
India is renowned for harboring cultures and religions. Interestingly, the forms of depiction are not limited to architecture, art and literature, animals fall well within the ambit. As has been reiterated in the Indian folklores, animals hold an intrinsic significance not only as important elements of the society but also as reincarnations of God. However, it is not uncommon that animals suffer in the name of religious sacrifices, entertainment, experiments and food. The country has plenty of legislations for animal protection but the continuous rise in cases of animal abuse makes it evident that a serious lacuna latently exists.
Roots of the problem The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, the most important legislation in this regard, stipulates a range of acts that can be construed as unlawful infliction of cruelty on animals. While the scope is wide, it is noteworthy that the highest penalty for commission of these offences is as meagre as INR 50 i.e. USD 0.68.
Not long ago, a pregnant elephant was killed in Kerala after eating a pineapple filled with crackers. Upon questioning, it was revealed that it was a common practice among the people to fill fruits with explosives to keep wild animals at bay. One cannot expect deterrence through a law that in reality, does nothing to create fear in the perpetrator’s mind.
A closer look reveals that the majority of the Indian animal welfare laws are over a half century old. Attempts were made to change this stance with the Animal Welfare Act 2011(Draft Act, 2011)1 and The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Amendment) Bill, 20162 put forth by the Animal Welfare Board of India. The drafts sought to increase the penalties, widen the horizon of offences and change the law into more welfare-centric. However, the Law never came into force. Hence, with absolutely no amendments till date, the legal rationale behind these enactments remains severely eroded. While the framework might be comprehensive, these laws merely exist on paper due to lack of implementation and proper enforcement.
How can the ‘lost cause’ be fixed?
One of the issues in this area is a lack of transparency on the scale of the problem. The last government records of available data are from 2012 to 2015. Fortunately, a lot of non-governmental organizations have been after the Animal Welfare Board to change the present legal stance. They’re also doing their bit of spreading awareness about animal cruelty, which was prompted due to a man from Bihar throwing a dog into river gaining attention on Instagram.3 Further a Recent PIL was filed in the Supreme Court of India granting ‘legal status’ to animals all over the country.4 Nonetheless, the upsurge of cases should be the ultimate wake-up call for the legislators and their need of taking action.
This post is not legal advice and should not be relied on as such. If you require legal advice on animal protection laws please contact firstname.lastname@example.org