Are we aware and do we care?: lets discuss animal rights

As terrible as 2020 has been for humans, for animals, it has been twice as tough. Those who are fed in their homes and have a roof above their head, with a loving owner to take care of them are less at risk of dying from starvation, diseases and blatant cruelty.

Except, a recent case in Rinchenpong, where a dog was stabbed by its owner’s bother-in-law shocked animal lovers all over Sikkim. The vicious nature of attack to a living being that wasn’t able to defend itself caused a huge uproar on social media. Although the perpetrator has been caught, it makes one wonder, if we are truly aware of the rights of our four legged friends.

People who treat animals cruelly may treat humans the same way. It is important to understand that animals have rights too, enshrined in the constitution and not as an intangible idea.

Animals are used for food, practice, clothing, scientific research, cosmetic tests and entertainment. Some religions like Hinduism and Jainism earlier used to prohibit the killing of animals, regarding it as a violation of ahimsa and the culmination of bad karma.

The first Indian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) came into the picture in 1861, Calcutta. Anti-cruelty laws like ‘Cruelty to Animals Act 1876’ saw implementation in the 1960s and were effective till 1890-91.

Although the days of hunting animals as romanticized by Maharajas and royal families in India’s bygone era, there are still cases of illegal hunting and poaching that occurs in various regions in India.

Currently, Article 51A(g) of Constitution of India states that it shall be the duty of every citizen to protect and improve Natural Environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures. In the matter of Animals Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja & Ors. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India ruled about article 21 of the Constitution of India stated: “Every species has a right to life and security, to the law of the land, which includes depriving its life, out of human necessity”.

Article 48 and 48A of Constitution of India i.e. Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) part IV of the Constitution lays down the state to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific ways and shall take a step for the preserving and improving the breeds, prohibits the slaughtering of cows and calves and other milk and draught cattle. Further,

Article 48A also talks about how “The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the forest and wildlife of the country.” This legislation tells about the duties that citizen towards the state and instructions to the government of the day to do something positive.

Section 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code makes it illegal to maim or cause injury to any animal with a monetary value greater than Rs.10. The code also makes illegal for cars to purposefully or intentionally injure or kill dogs, cats and cows in the streets. The Offenders can be punished and action can be taken through a local animal protection group and police station.

The case may be filed under section 428 and 429 of Indian Penal Code in case of taking the life of Animals or causing harm or injury to the animal purposefully, the punishment is fine of Rs 2000/or a jail term of up to five years. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 is an act of the Indian Parliament is to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals and to make laws to prevent cruelty against animals.

Section 11(1)(i) and Section 11(1)(j), PCA Act, 1960 states that abandoning any animals for any reason can be reasons for imprisonment. Neglecting an animal by denying sufficient food, water, shelter and exercised or by keeping him chained to for a long hour is punishable by fine or imprisonment of up to 3 months or both Section 11(1)(h), PCA Act,1960.

Monkey “langurs” are protected under Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and cannot be owned, traced, bought, sold or crucially hired out. Therefore, it cannot be displayed for entertainment (including bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and dogs).

Organizing or participating in any animal fight is a cognizable offence- Section 11(1)(m) (ii) and Section 11(1) (n), PCA Act,1960. Cosmetic test on animals and imported cosmetic test on animals is banned under Rules 148-Cand 135-B of Drugs & Cosmetic Rules, 1945. The Wildlife Protection Act 1972 is an Act of the parliament enacted for the protection of plants and animal species. Section 9 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 describes what constitutes hunting and intent to hunt. It prohibits hunting of wild animals.

The 2002 Amendment Act has made penalty and punishment more stringent. It provides for the protection of wild animals, birds and plants and for matters connected therewith or ancillary or incidental thereto to ensure the ecological and environmental security of the country.

The Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill 2010 prepared by the Ministry of Environment and Forest to further amend the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and to make stronger provision for penalties, traps, criminal procedure etc.

People should be made aware through social media and NGOs working for animal protection and the Government should take a major role to protect and safeguard the welfare and rights of animal in India. Stray animals living on the streets are at risk of malnutrition, accidents and illnesses, especially during a pandemic like the COVID-19, where everyone but these strays are unsafe and hungry.

The author is Basanta Kharka, a scholar at Sikkim Government Law College.

Views/Opinions expressed in the article or write up is purely of the author or writer and not of the Sikkim Chronicle. For any queries or contradictions, the author can be contacted in his/her email id.

SC Bureau

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