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Rights of Animals under the Indian Legal System: Justifiable Amendable Curative Reformative

The posit of supremacy by man over nature has led to conflicts with nature. The burgeoning human population and its multifarious requisites are leading to an elevation in the conflicts between man and natural resources/lives. Even the wildlife has come at squabble with human beings owing to the pre-emption of their natural habitats.

The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts.
- -Bhagavad Gita; Chapter 15, Verse 7[1]

Many drivers of conflicts are impecunious management, misguided clearance decisions, and apathy. 99 percent of currently threatened species are in peril from human activities, primarily those driving habitat loss, the exordium of exotic species, and global warming.[2] Animals are a hugely consequential part of the human world, relied upon for aliment, utilized as research models, companions, working animals, for sport and in recreation. Virtually proximately all religions recognize the innate value of animal life and the desideratum to evade animal suffering.

Henry Stephens Salt inscribed the first book entirely devoted to animal rights, published in 1892 - Animals  Rights: Considered in relation to social progress. He sought to impress people not to kill or victual animals and submitted that such comportment is the distinction of a civilized society. British Zoologist William M.S. Russel and the microbiologist Rex L. Burch in 1959 propounded 3Rs tenets or framework for humane animal research - replacement, reduction, and refinement.

The Brambell Report (UK Technical Committee to Enquire into the Welfare of Animals kept under Intensive Livestock Husbandry Systems) in December 1965 verbally expressed that farm animals should have liberation to stand up, lie down, turn around, groom themselves and stretch their limbs.[3]

These Five Freedoms of animals have been widely accepted as a verbalization of fundamental principles of animal welfare. These freedoms as updated are liberation from hunger, thirst, and malnutrition; liberation from fear and distress; liberation from physical and thermal discomfort; liberation from pain, injury and disease; and liberation to express mundane patterns of demeanour. These freedoms are recognized in India under Sections 11 (1), 12 ,14, 19 etc of Prevention of Cruelty Act,1960[4]; Sections 30,31,32, 33A etc. of Wildlife Protection Act,1972[5] and so on.

Further, The Constitution of India indirectly apperceives the rights of animals. The unique feature of the Constitution of India is that it sanctions representatives to assert the interests of animals in Courts and thereby engenders a readymade mechanism.[6] The notion of Public Interest Litigations materialized in India in the 1980s. The judiciary sanctions such representative actions under Articles 32 and 226 of the Constitution.[7]

The worsening condition of animals in India perpetuates to prevail in spite of the subsisting legislative framework dealing with animals. Hundreds of animals are sacrificed and utilized as performing animals in diverse religious cultural events throughout the country.[8]

As many as 2406 cases were registered under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 in 2017 but low conviction numbers and meagre fines have seen a spurt in crimes against animals recently and people are not reporting the crimes anymore due to laughable fines as it can be seen that lowest number of cases ever registered in India were registered in 2017.

Synopsis of Breach of Rights of Animals in India

  • Endangered Species and Extinction: India has 988 species on International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)32 ‘Red List  as of 2018 more species were integrated to the List of threatened species.[9] In the mammals  category, 96 mammals  species, 82 bird species and 53 species of reptiles, amphibians, and fishes are 75 and 214 respectively, 7 molluscs, 128 other invertebrates are imperilled.
  • Conforming to The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, in India, you can get away with being cruel to most animals by paying a fine of anything between Rs 10 and Rs 50. If you reiterate the offense within three years, the penalty may go up to anything between Rs 25 and Rs 100. You could additionally be thrown in confinement for three months. But that s about it.[10]

Judicial Dictum

The true nature of laws can only be understood by going through the judgments of the Courts. Any legal solutions and conclusions remain half-baked until views of the Courts are taken into account. The Courts played an active role to bulwark the rights of animals on one hand. Concurrently, in a few cases, they failed to forfend them and their rights. Indian judiciary is often accredited for its role in bulwarking the natural environment and upholding the right to a safe environment.[11]

The consequential role has been played by the Indian judiciary in efficaciously implementing the provisions of assorted statutes conserving the rights of animals. The main aspects settled by it are the slaughter of animals‟ vis-a-vis Constitution of India, rights of performing animals, harmony between bulwark of animal and religious animal sacrifice, etc.

In Centre for Environment Law, WWF-I v. Union of India & Others[12], it was observed by the apex court that - human beings have an obligation to obviate the species from extinction and have to advocate for an efficacious species aegis regime. No state, organization or person can claim ownership or possession over wild animals in the forest.

Animals in the wild are properties of the nation for which no state can claim ownership and the state s obligation is to insulate the wildlife and safeguard it, for ascertaining the ecological and environmental security of the country.

Further, the Court has given the following guidelines regarding the protection of animals and these guidelines are discussed as follows[13]:

  • The government of India and the MoEF (ministry of environment and forests) must take exigent steps for the preservation of those imperilled species as well as to initiate recuperation programs.
  • The Government of India and the MoEF are directed to identify, as already highlighted by National Wildlife Action Plan, all imperilled species of flora and fauna, study their needs and survey their environs and habitats to establish the current level of security and the nature of threats. They should withal conduct periodic reviews of flora and fauna species status, and correlate the same with the IUCN Red Data List every three years.
  • Courts and environmentalists should pay more attention for implementing the recuperation programs and the same be carried out with ingenuity and commitment.


In Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) v. A. Nagaraja and Ors[14] it was held by the Hon ble Supreme Court of India that every species has an intrinsically right to live and shall be safeguarded by law. Lordships have further held that so far animals are concerned, life denotes something more than mere survival or subsistence or instrumental value for human beings, but to lead a life with some intrinsic worth, accolade, and dignity.

An animal has withal accolade and dignity which cannot be arbitrarily deprived of. Lordships held that Article 51 (g) and (h) are Magna Carta for protecting the lives of animals. The right to dignity and equitable treatment is, ergo, not confined to human beings alone, but to animals as well. Right, not to be beaten, kicked, over-ridden, overloading is withal a right apperceived by Section 11 read with Section 3 of the PCA Act. Animals have withal a right against human beings not to be tortured and against the infliction of nonessential pain or suffering.

Penalty for contravention of these rights is nugatory since laws are made by humans. The penalization prescribed in Section 11(1) is not commensurate with the gravity of the offense.

The Court inter alia made the following declarations and directions[15]:

  • Declared that the five freedoms, referred to earlier be read into Sections 3 and 11 of the PCA Act, be bulwarked and safeguarded by the Governments (including state and UTs), MoEF and AWBI.
  • Directed the AWBI and Government to take felicitous steps to visually perceive that the persons-in-charge or care of animals, take plausible measures to ascertain the salubrity of animals. AWBI and the governments would additionally optically discern that even in cases, where Section 11(3) is involved the animals, be not put to dispensable pain and suffering and adequate and scientific methods are adopted to achieve equipollency.
  • Directed that the AWBI and the governments should take steps to impart inculcation in cognition to human treatment of animals in accordance with Section 9(k) inculcating the spirit of Articles 51A(g) & (h) of the Constitution.
  • Declared that the Parliament is expected to make a felicitous amendment of the PCA Act to provide an efficacious deterrent to achieving the object and purport of the Act and for infringement of Section 11, adequate penalties and penalizations should be imposed.
  • Declared that the Parliament, it is expected, would elevate rights of animals to that of constitutional rights, as done by many of the countries around the world, so as to forfend their dignity and accolade.
  • Declared that The Governments would optically discern that if the provisions of the PCA Act and the declarations and the directions issued by this Court are not opportunely and efficaciously complied with, disciplinary action is taken against the erring officials so that the purport and object of PCA Act could be achieved.
  • Directed AWBI to take efficacious and expeditious steps to implement the provisions of the PCA Act in consultation with SPCA (state acts) and make periodical reports to the governments and if any infringement is described, the Regimes should take steps to remedy identically tantamount, including congruous follow-up action.

Is Moral Status of Animals Justifiable

Some contend that there is an answer that can differentiate humans from the remainder of the natural world. Many of those who accept this answer are intrigued by justifying certain human practices towards non-humans—practices that cause pain, discomfort, suffering, and death. This second group expects that in responding to issue in a certain means, people are likely to be justified in giving ethical consideration to many other people that is neither needed nor justified when contemplating non-human animals.[16] In contrast to this view, an incrementing number of philosophers have argued that while humans are different in a variety of ways from each other and other animals, these differences do not provide a philosophical bulwark for gainsaying non-human animals moral consideration. What the substratum of moral consideration is and what it amounts to has been the source of many discrepancies.

As a consequence, we are increasingly liable to face ethical dilemmas over the value of human versus non-human life. It won t be in the form of an expeditious decision to kill an animal to preserve the life of a child. These dilemmas will play out in courtrooms and parliaments, as human needs are pitted against environmental ones, and as the battle for natural resources brings threats of deforestation and species extinction. As we edge ever more proximate to the brink of the Earth s sixth mass extinction, perhaps we require to consider just precisely what human life is worth.

Towards Legal Rights for Animals

The legal rights of nonhuman animals might first be achieved in any of the ways. Most concur that the least likely will be through the re-interpretation or amendment of state or federal constitutions, or through international treaties.[17] In general, most believe that gaining personhood is much more probable through legislative enactment than through a constitutional change. But a vicissitude in the prevalent law may be the most likely of all. while in the process of deciding cases.

Unlike legislators, judges are at least formally bound to do equity. Opportunely interpreted, the common law is devoted to being flexible, adaptable to transmutations in public morality, and sensitive to incipient scientific revelations. Among its chief values are liberty and equipollence. These favor prevalent law personhood, as a matter of liberty.

Legal Inculcation in Animal Law

It is indicated that animal rights lawyer should not expect a judge to appreciate the merits of arguments in favor of the legal personhood of any nonhuman animal the first time, or the fifth time, he or she encounters them. While a sympathetic judge might be found here and there, no appellate bench will seize the lead until the issue has been exhaustively aired in law journals, books, and conferences. Law reviews discussing animal legal rights must be established around the country in order to provide a paramount scholarly forum in which the germane legal issues can be explored.

Legal conferences must be organized, law school courses devoted to edifying students on animal law issues must be established, animal rights lawyers and law edifiers must reach out to acquaint the vocation with the paramountcy of their work and the puissance of their arguments.[18] The same quandary subsists for the millions of nonhuman animals coerced to be subjects of biomedical research.

Conclusion And Suggestions
Animals have always composed and will always form a central feature of the human world. Deference for the dignity of all animals  lives needs to underlie consideration of how human beings interact with other animals. The trend that is pellucid from the study is that in the last few years, animal activism has gained momentum in India due to the efforts of animal activists and the judiciary. Pro-animal Bills are under consideration to raise the penal provisions in cases of animal abuse. Nationwide campaigns are being held to augment cognizance on the rights of animals.

As a result, the Courts have been reiterating the rights of animals and birds. The key affirmative advances in this regard in the country are boost in the number of protected areas under the Wildlife Protection Act,1972 ; veto on capture of dolphins; establishment of Cow Department in Rajasthan; declaration of River Dolphin as City Animal of Guwahati ; scheme for animal adoption in Haryana; incipient course on Animal Welfare in Jawahar Lal Nehru University ; preclusion & regulation of avail of animals during Veterinary Edification etc..

Infelicitously, the law of 1960 on preventing cruelty against animals has not been amended even once in the last fifty years. The presence of numerous impotent and ineffective legislative provisions in favour of animals is perpetually leading to infringement of their rights in disparate forms. It is fascinating to note that the ways in which the lives of animals are compromised can be often optically discerned, much abuse goes unnoticed.

The negative trends can be observed as the integration of endangered Species in IUCN Red List; two anti-animal notifications issued by MoEFCC; deaths of companion animals; the liberal posture of judiciary etc. There certainly subsists a gap between legislative policies and the practical situation as far as the rights of animals are concerned. Furthermore, it becomes pellucid that the general acceptance of the rights of animals is still not prevalent in India.

A paradigm shift in human consciousness is needed and it s time to realize that the interaction of human beings and animals is as much a component of evolution and as worthy of study as the extinction of the dinosaurs or the comportment of a chimpanzee.

Though the law has a consequential role to play in bulwarking animals from exploitation and cruelty, people cannot be made by law more humanitarian. In the light of the above discussions and conclusions, the following suggestions are being made to address deteriorating state of animal rights in India-

  • Future studies should investigate the factors responsible for encroachment by men over nature.
  • A comprehensive law should come into force. The legal regime to forfend them needs to be more proactive. It would be an achievement for the animal rights activists and organizations if both of Animal Welfare Bills get clearance by the Parliament. The Bill in Parliament for incrementing penalties for breach of animal abuse must be passed as soon as possible. Regarding the abandonment of pet animals, more rigorous legal penalties must subsist. The scheme of marking the animals so as to trace the owner as introduced for sundry animals must be efficaciously elongated to all. The recommendations of the Law Commission of India vide its Report No. 261 submitted in August 2015 additionally deserve immediate attention by the Parliament.
  • The enforcement mechanism must be made more vigorous in India. The enactment of the law to avert cruelty to the animals is not a terminus in itself. What is more consequential is the implementation of sundry animal aegis statutes and to optically discern to it that the activities which are proscribed under them do not take place in the State & in case of infringement of the provisions of, to take stringent action against the offenders.

This underlines the essentiality to acknowledge each individual animal s intrinsic value, and the fact that every single animal is worthy of deference and care, deserves to live a life that is consequential without dispensable human exploitation or interference. The point is to spread vigilance that animal rights violation is an issue, an earnest issue worthy of public discourse.

End-Notes:

  1. India, T. (2010). Srimad bhagavad gita. [S.l.]: The Times Group Books.
  2. The Extinction Crisis. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversity/extinction_crisis/
  3. Sharma, B., & Sharma, P. (2017). RIGHTS OF ANIMALS AT PRACTICE IN INDIA. JOURNAL ON CONTEMPORARY ISSUES OF LAW, 3(7), 3.
  4. Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960).
  5. Wildlife Protection Act (1972).
  6. Kelch, T. (2017). Globalization and animal law. Comparative law, international law and international trade. Den Haag: Kluwer Law International.
  7. Jain, M. (2014). Indian constitutional law. Haryana, India: LexisNexis.
  8. Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu, and bullock cart races in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Kerala, etc are events which charter use of animals as performing animals. Furthermore, animals sacrifice takes place during  Bijaya Yatra of the annual Chhattar festival at Bhawanipatna in Kalahandi district in Orissa; animal sacrifice was prevalent before September 2014 in various parts of Himachal Pradesh - Chamunda Devi temple in Kangra, Hadimba Devi temple in Manali, etc.
  9. IAS, P. (2019). IUCN Red List India | Red Data List | Red Book Part-1. Retrieved from http://www.pmfias.com/iucn-red-list-india-red-data-list-red-book/
  10. HuffPost is now a part of Oath. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.in/2016/07/07/animal-cruelty-india_n_10856308.html
  11. M.C. Mehta v. Kamal Nath and Others, 1 SCC 388 (Supreme Court of India 1997).
  12. Centre for Environment Law, WWF-I v. Union of India & Others, 8 SCC 234 para 42 (Supreme Court of India 2013).
  13. Centre for Environment Law, WWF-I v. Union of India & Others, 8 SCC 234 para 63 (Supreme Court of India 2013).
  14. Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) v. A. Nagaraja and Ors, 7 SCC 547 (Supreme Court of India 2014).
  15. Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) v. A. Nagaraja and Ors, 7 SCC 547 para 77 (Supreme Court of India 2014).
  16. Gruen, L. (2017). The Moral Status of Animals (Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy). Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-animal/
  17. A. Posner, R. (2000). Animal Rights (reviewing Steven M. Wise, Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals (2000)). Retrieved from https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4930&context=journal_articles
  18. Salem, D., & Rowan, A. (2003). The state of the animals II, 2003. Washington, D.C.: Humane Society Press.

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