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Animal Rights in India and Animal Act

Animal Rights in India and Animal Act

Animal Rights in India and Animal Act


India, ranked as the seventh largest country globally, stands out for its rich biodiversity, boasting four of the world's 36 biodiversity hotspots. From the majestic Bengal Tigers to the endangered Great Indian Rhinoceros, the nation's commitment to animal protection and welfare has gained significant traction in recent years. Codified as a fundamental duty in the Indian Constitution, animal protection is supported by various legislative frameworks such as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 and the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 at the Central level, alongside state-level regulations concerning cattle protection and cow slaughter prohibition.

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860 serves as the comprehensive criminal code governing the country, covering all aspects of criminal law. Sections 428 and 429 of the IPC specifically address acts of cruelty towards animals, including killing, poisoning, maiming, or rendering them useless. These statutes aim to mitigate unnecessary suffering and are continually updated to adapt to evolving circumstances. Moreover, beyond specific legislation, animals are afforded protection under broader legal concepts like tort law and constitutional law.

The Indian Constitution empowers the Parliament to legislate for the entire country or specific territories, including states, union territories, and enclaves. Article 246 delineates the subject matter for legislation by both the Parliament and State Legislatures, categorized into the Union List, State List, and Concurrent List. Matters related to animal rights are allocated in the State and Concurrent List, granting states authority over issues like preserving and protecting livestock, preventing animal diseases, and enforcing veterinary practices.

The cornerstone legislation concerning animal welfare in India is The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960. Designed to prevent unnecessary pain or suffering inflicted upon animals, the Act defines "animal" expansively to include all living creatures except humans. Chapter II of the Act led to the establishment of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), tasked with advising the government on various aspects of animal welfare, including transportation, experimentation, and medical care.

Section 11 of the Act enumerates various forms of cruelty towards animals, ranging from physical abuse to neglect and abandonment. Notably, the Act provides exceptions for certain practices like dehorning/castration of cattle and destruction of stray dogs under prescribed conditions. Part IV regulates experimentation on animals, allowing for lawful experimentation to advance scientific knowledge or combat diseases. However, it mandates supervision by a government-appointed committee to ensure ethical standards are met. The Act provides following as the cruelty upon the animals:-

a) Inflicting physical harm, such as beating, kicking, overriding, overloading, or torturing any animal, causing it unnecessary pain.
b) Utilizing an old, injured, or unfit animal for work, with penalties applicable to both the owner and the user.
c) Administering injurious drugs or medicine to any animal.
d) Transporting an animal in a manner that causes it pain or discomfort in any vehicle.
e) Confining an animal in a cage where it lacks reasonable opportunities for movement.
f) Restraining an animal with an unreasonably heavy or short chain for an excessive duration.
g) Habitually confining an animal without providing reasonable opportunities for exercise.
h) Failing to provide an animal with sufficient food, drink, or shelter.
i) Abandoning an animal without reasonable justification.
j) Negligently allowing an owned animal to roam on streets or leaving it to perish from disease, old age, or disability.
k) Offering for sale an animal suffering from pain due to mutilation, starvation, thirst, overcrowding, or other forms of ill-treatment.
l) Engaging in cruel methods to mutilate or kill animals, such as using strychnine injections.
m) Using an animal as bait for another animal solely for entertainment purposes.
n) Operating, maintaining, or managing any location for animal fighting.
o) Shooting an animal upon its release from captivity for such purposes.

Chapter V addresses the use of animals in performances, requiring registration with the AWBI and prohibiting certain animals from being exploited for entertainment purposes. Additionally, the Act accommodates religious practices by exempting certain animal killings mandated by religious customs.

Penalties for animal cruelty under the Act range from fines to imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense. Despite these legal frameworks, challenges remain in fully implementing and enforcing animal protection laws. Provisions in the Indian Constitution advocating for animal welfare remain aspirational rather than enforceable, and existing penalties may not be stringent enough to deter offenders. Addressing these shortcomings requires comprehensive reforms to establish robust animal protection laws in India.

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