Animal Rights in India: Landmark Cases and laws

31 Aug 2022  Read 767 Views

India is the seventh largest country in the world in its cultural, artistic, historical, and geographical diversity, containing four of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots, the Himalayas, the Western Ghats, the Indo-Burma region and the Sundaland, etc. It is home to various animals, ranging from the Bengal Tigers to the Great Indian Rhinoceros, and animal protection and welfare in the country have taken a prominent position over recent years. 

The Constitution of India has ensured the protection of animals as a fundamental duty. Also, various animal welfare legislations have been promulgated, like the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 and the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 at the Central level and cattle protection and cow slaughter prohibition legislation at the State levels. So, in this article, we will discuss all these laws for animal welfare protection, etc.

Laws governing animal welfare in India

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860 is the official criminal code of India, which covers all substantive aspects of criminal law. Sections 428 and 429 punish all acts of cruelty, such as killing, poisoning, maiming, or rendering useless animals. However, IPC is not the only law governing animal welfare; with changing circumstances, many similar legislations have also been enacted. Even notwithstanding a particular statute, further protections for animals lie under general laws such as tort law, constitutional law, etc.

Let’s take a look at the major laws on animal protection:

  1. The Constitution of India 1960

Our Indian Constitution under Article 51-A(g) (Directive Principle of State Policy) makes it the “duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for all living creatures.” 

Then, Article 48A of our Indian Constitution provides that the State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.

The 42nd Amendment (1976) introduced the above-mentioned constitutional provisions. However, one being fundamental duty and the other DPSP are not directly enforceable in Indian courts, but they lay down the groundwork for legislation, policies, and state directives concerning animal welfare at both the Central and state levels. One must also know that these can be made enforceable somehow, by taking an expansive judicial interpretation and bringing it within Article 21 of the Indian Constitution

  1. Indian Penal Code

  • Section 428 of the Indian Penal Code

It deliberates that the punishment for killing, poisoning, maiming, or rendering useless any animal or animals of the value of ten rupees or upwards is simple or rigorous imprisonment for up to two years, or with a fine, or with both.

  • Section 429 of the Indian Penal Code

It deliberates that the punishment for killing, poisoning, maiming, or rendering useless any animal or animals of the value of fifty rupees or upwards (which automatically includes all cattle/beasts of burden) are simple or rigorous imprisonment for up to five years, or with a fine, or with both.

  1. Animal Welfare Laws

  • The Wildlife Protection Act (1972)

The act Prohibits injury to any wild animal or trees under section 39. Under this statute, "animals" include amphibians, birds, reptiles, mammals, and their young. In the case of birds and reptiles, even their eggs are included in this category. Exceptions are classified as "vermin" as defined in Section V (Vermin are small wild animals (e.g., rats) that carry disease and destroy plants and food). Each state has its own list of non-human animals considered vermin.

Punishment- The penalty for the person guilty of an offense under this Act is imprisonment for a term of three years, or with a fine of twenty-five thousand rupees, or both. In a second offense, the term of imprisonment will be seven years with a fine of ten thousand rupees.

  • The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960

The definition of cruelty is under Section 11 (a) to (o). This includes (but is not limited to):

  • cruelty against the person's pet

  • inhumane slaughter

  • inhumane transportation

  • inhumane living conditions (even for animals destined for slaughter)

  • Tail docking

  • Ear docking.

Stray dogs are protected under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and under Rules enacted under Section 38 of the ActThe offender will have to pay a fine, extending to fifty rupees. If it is the case of a second offense, he will be fined not less than twenty-five rupees but which may extend to one hundred rupees or imprisonment for up to three months or both.

Any illegal killing or cruelty towards an animal should be reported to the local police station, and an F.I.R. should be filed against the offender. If the animal is a wild animal not defined as "vermin" by the state, or if the person is killing or injuring an animal defined as a vermin in an illegal/inhumane way, simply refer to The Wildlife Protection Act (1972) and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960)

Is Animal Testing legal in India?

In India, the use of animal experimentation for cosmetic products is banned. Still, animal experimentation for drugs is not banned in India, as there is a belief that pharmacology cannot be learned without animal experimentation so, the animals are important for new developments in the field of medicine. The animals used for drug testing are rabbits, sheep, mice, guinea pig, albino rats, monkeys, frogs, primates, etc. The ban also applies to the ingredients of the product. Did you know that India is the first country to ban animal testing in South Asia, proving that our country is against animal testing and it has very strict laws? 

What is PETA?

  • PETA, India, is our country’s animal rights organization. It stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. 

  • Originally it is an American animal rights non-profit organization based in Norfolk, Virginia, and led by Ingrid Newkirk, its international president. 

  • PETA India was founded in 2000 and is based in Mumbai. It focuses on animal issues in laboratories, the food industry, the leather trade, and entertainment.

  • PETA and NGO Animal Rahat, authorized by the Animal Welfare Board of India, participated in a nine-month investigation of 16 circuses in India. 

  • After it was revealed that "animals used in circuses were subjected to chronic confinement, physical abuse, and psychological torment". Then in the year 2013, AWBI banned the registration of elephants for performance.

  • Hence, just like in 2013, elephants were banned from performing in circuses. In 2018, the Centre notified the draft Performing Animals (Registration) (Amendment) Rules, 2018 proposing to prohibit the performance and exhibition of all animals in circuses.

Did you Know?

In many states across India, it is mandatory to get a pet license. However, no legislation on pet tax exists. For example the Punjab government announced a pet tax; of Rs. 250 for dogs & pig and Rs. 500 for cows.

Landmark cases on animal rights in India

1. State of Bihar v. Murad Ali Baig (1989) - 

This case relates to the sections of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. It dealt with whether the hunting of elephants is justified under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the necessary provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act. The word “hunting” has been defined under Section 2(16) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 The Supreme Court held that since the elephant was an animal that fell under the scope and list of animals provided under Schedule I, it can be assumed that the hunting of elephants is prohibited. 

2.  Tilak Bahadur Rai v. State of Arunachal Pradesh (1979)

The accused herein shot and killed a Tiger. The court held that while deciding whether the accused acted in good faith or not when he killed a wild animal, it is imperative to understand the nature and dangers that lurked around the accused and under what circumstances the accused killed the animal. After due consideration, the Court stated that the accused shot the tiger that charged at him in good faith and as a means to protect himself. 

3.  Tarun Bharat Sangh, Alwar v. Union of India (1992)

An organization, a social action group, filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution, claiming that the Rajasthan State Government had issued a number of Notifications declaring the Sariska Tiger Park as a sanctuary, however, the petitioner stated that there was an increase in illegal mining activity in the said area and the State Government had issued licenses for carrying out such mining activities & that these mining activities impaired the environment and the wildlife within the park. SC took cognizance of this situation and passed an order which directed that no mining operations could be conducted any further within the area which was demarcated as, “protected”.  

4.  Naveen Raheja v. Union of India (2001)

The case dealt with the skinning of a tiger in a zoo in Andhra Pradesh. The Supreme Court was in utter shock after hearing the facts of the case. SC stated that it was extremely necessary to summon the chairperson of the Central Zoo Authority to appear before the court in person and to elucidate on what steps and measures were being taken to protect and preserve the tiger population in zoos and reserved forests. The Supreme Court then passed appropriate orders on the said issue and made it necessary for the Central Zoo Authority to take cognizance of this issue and take the steps in order.

5.  Ivory Traders and Manufacturers Association v. Union of India, (1997)

The petitioners, in this case, challenged the ban which was imposed upon them by the authorities for them having possession of mammoth ivory and articles & they also challenged certain amendments which were made in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 whereby the trade of imported ivory articles was banned on the ground that it violated their right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade, or business as guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. The Court held that such a law could not be regarded as in violation of the provisions guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India.

6.  Rajendra Kumar v. Union of India (1998)

The petitioner challenged the constitutional validity of Sections 5, 27,33,34,35, and 37 of the Wildlife Protection Amendment Act, 1991, alleging that these sections were ultra vires the provisions of the Indian Constitution, i.e., Article 19(1)(g) The Petitioner was a trader of ivory products and the amendment referred to the ban of sale and trade of Ivory products and articles made out of ivory, the banned sale affected his life. The Court was of the view that the restriction which was imposed under the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and the amendment to the Act was in consonance with the provisions of the Constitution and were not ultra vires the provisions of the Constitution & in compliance with Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

7.  Animal Welfare of India v. A Nagaraja and Ors. (2014)

The traditional sport of Jalikattu, which is practiced in the State of Tamil Nadu (involved a series of fights between bulls) as a part of a ritual during the Pongal festival every year was brought under the scanner of the Madras High Court, and the constitutionality of the traditional sport was challenged. Under this sport, these robust bulls were released into the crowd of participants who tried to hold onto the fierce bulls. Whoever could fight the bulls and reach the finish line was awarded prizes sponsored by the various sponsors of the festival. 

In 2014, the Supreme Court held that the state law passed by the State of Tamil Nadu was unconstitutional and unreasonable. It instructed the Union Government to amend the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty Act (PCA), 1960 and laid down guidelines stating that “bulls” shall be included under the ambit of the Act. Going against the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Ministry of Environment and Forests further went on to issue a notification in 2016, again providing a green signal to the organizers of the Jallikattu event to practice the ancient sport. However, the Animal Welfare Board and PETA India decided to take cognizance of the said issue. 

On 14th January 2016, they filed several pleas in the Apex Court, The Jallikattu event is now organized extravagantly, and the organizers are exorbitantly spending big sums, despite the ban imposed by the Supreme Court of India.  

8.  People for Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Union of India (2004)

The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed a writ Petition in the Bombay High Court against granting a censorship certificate to a film titled “Taj Mahal” under the Cinematography Act, 1952. Its main allegation was that there was an utter violation of the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 & the Performing Animals Registration Rules, 2001, and these violations were made by the makers of the film, “Taj Mahal” during the shoot of the film. The High Court ruled in favor of PETA and held that for any movie which aims or wishes to use an animal, these conditions must be followed:

  1. To obtain a certificate from the Animal Welfare Board of India, which contains the various provisions of the Performing Animals Registration Rules, 2001. 

  2. The Welfare Board would check whether the film, which aims to use an animal in the course of its shooting is not subjecting the animal to cruelty.

  3. The Animal Welfare Board would then scrutinize whether the makers of the particular film are adhering to the Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001, and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. 

9.  Ozair Hussain vs. Union of India, (2001)

In this case, the Petitioner filed a writ petition seeking direction from the respondents to protect the rights of those who are severely against the use of animal and animal products by making it necessary for the manufacturers to print on their packaging a list of contents that go into manufacturing a product as 60% of Indians are vegetarians. Therefore, the judgment laid down by the Delhi High Court, in this case, enabled the citizens to make informed choices about the products they buy or consume.

10.  Gauri Maulekhi v. Union of India, (2010)

This case dealt with the illegal export of cattle and buffaloes from India to Nepal. In Nepal, the Gadhimai festival is celebrated every five years. This festival is a tradition followed by the indigenous population of the Bara District of Nepal, wherein they sacrifice several animals such as buffaloes, rats, goats, pigs, etc. The animal sacrifice undertaken in the Gadhmai Festival could be considered one of the world’s largest animal sacrifices. The SC passed the order in line with the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992, and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. The Court held that unnecessary pain or suffering cannot be inflicted upon any non-human living beings simply to satisfy the desires of humans.  

11.  N.R. Nair and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors. (2001)

The main challenge in this appeal faced by the Supreme Court was the special leave granted by the Kerala High Court. The Kerala High Court pronounced a decision in this case. It upheld a notification issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, which stated that bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers, and lions could not be trained or exhibited as performing animals (Section 22 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960). SC held that animals are usually subjected to cruelty. Then they are constantly abused and put behind the four confines of a cell, trapping them and restricting their free movement so, it dismissed the Appellants' argument on the ground that the right to carry out any trade or business under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India was not violated in any way & that non-living human beings too, have the right to free movement. 

12.  Kennel Club of India (KCI) v. Union of India (2013)

The petitioner sent a notice to the Veterinary Council of India stating that the Animal Welfare Association Board of India provided them information that puppies of dogs belonging to breeds like Doberman, Cocker Spaniels, Great Danes, Boxers, etc. were all subjected to avoidable and unnecessary cosmetic surgeries. So, they performed surgeries such as docking the tails, etc. The Madras HC ruled in favor of the veterinary surgeons and quashed the notice issued by the Kennel Club of India to stop the practice of cropping the ears of the puppies. The Court stated that cropping the ears of the dog or docking their tails does not subject them to any sort of cruelty as provided under the provisions of Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, it is the sole discretion of the owners  

Present Scenario

The present-day scenario is much better as the laws and establishment of several non-governmental organizations have created a safer atmosphere for strays. The present laws even ensure protection for stray animals in India.

Medically the treatment has got more advanced, and again the establishments of non-governmental organizations and government laws have made it even easier for strays to get treatment and the funds are provided by the various veterinary hospitals and clinics. 

Even though laws and technology have advanced a lot, we are still far away from the day when animals are given proper treatment and dignity.

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 82 Post(s)

Kakoli Nath is a legal Content Curator at Finology Legal who pursued BBA.LL.B (5 years integrated course) & she is a patent analyst. She has pursued advanced certification in Forensics Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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