Animal Cruelty: Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960
India, being the 7th largest country in the world, which includes one of the most diverse Environment and dense Bio-diversity. Our country is very well known for diverse Animals, ranging from the Bengal Tiger to the Great Indian Rhinoceros, and the History speaks for itself that how Animals have been an Integral part of our society since Ancient times.
Now, it’s been more than 60 years since Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act has been enacted by the Legislature. Which prevents cruelty on Animals inflicted by the society/citizens of our country. The main objective of the Act was to safeguard the rights of those living beings who can’t not speak or express themselves, unlike the rest of us. Even, the Indian Constitution acknowledges the Right of the Animals, under Article 51A(g) which states, “to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures”. The Constitution of India clearly mandates/responsibility to the Citizens to Protect the Environment and the Animals.
The Old Law vs The New Law:
The old Law
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, has barely seen the light of Amendments in its long 60 years. Which has resulted in the Act being redundant in today’s time, meaning that the Society has become very cruel towards Animals, which has resulted in numerous Horrendous crimes on Animals living in the Jungle and which live within the society itself. The basic cruelty law of India is contained in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960. The objective of the Act is to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals and to amend the laws relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals. The Act defines “animal” as any living creature other than a human being.
In accordance with Chapter II of the Act, the Government of India established the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) with some of the following functions:
1.Advising the central government regarding amendments and rules to prevent unnecessary pain while transporting animals, performing experiments on animals or storing animals in captivity.
2.Encouragement of financial assistance, rescue homes and animal shelters for old animals.
3.Advising the government on medical care and regulations for animal hospitals.
4.Imparting education and awareness on humane treatment of animals.
5.Advising the central government regarding general matters of animal welfare.
The Section 11 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960, magnifies the different variants of cruelty on Animals, i.e.
1.Beating, kicking, overriding, overloading, torturing and causing unnecessary pain to any animal.
2. Using an old or injured or unfit animal for work (the punishment applies to the owner as well as the user).
3.Administering an injurious drug/medicine to any animal.
4. Keeping any animal in a cage where it doesn’t have reasonable opportunity of movement.
5.Being an owner failing to provide the animal with sufficient food, drink or shelter.
These old laws have failed on many occasion to protect the Animal society in large which reflects the much needed change required in the Prevent of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960. Recently an elephant in Kerala was killed by the people of the local area, as they wanted to restrict the Animal from entering the area in search of food. Which eventually lead to her killing by the local people of the area, later it was revealed that the elephant was pregnant and was separated from her herd. It’s even more sour in nature, as people Kerala admire and even worship elephants, also at times keeping them as their domestic pets.
Surely, all attempts by the Legislature and people haven’t turned out to be futile in nature. As, the Supreme Court India in 2014 held Jallikattu as cruelty to bulls and banned the same, however, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act of 2017 and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Conduct of Jallikattu) Rules of 2017 opened the gates for running the popular bull-taming sport in the name of tradition. The Supreme Court in 2014, in a case titled - Animal Welfare Board of India v. Nagraja&Ors, recognized the Right to Life as enshrined under Article 21 of the COI, to extend to animals as well. NGOs and animal rights activists condemn these brazen killings and inhumane acts however there is now an immediate need to make stricter laws. Also, it was a great approach by the Uttar Pradesh to take step by approving draft of the Uttar Pradesh Cabinet Cow Slaughter Prevention (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, to protect cows and prevent their slaughter, providing a maximum rigorous imprisonment of 10 years and a fine up to Rs. 5 lakh.
The New Law
There isn’t much difference in the Old and New Law, which has been proposed by the Central Government, as mentioned above the Section 11 of Prevent of Cruelty to Animals Act1960, it highlights the major aspects but the Act of 1960, fails in passing rigours punishments for the Offenders of such crime. It would be Surprising to know that such crimes, where Treating animals cruelly is punishable with a fine of Rs. 10 which may extend to Rs. 50 on first conviction. On subsequent conviction within three years of a previous offence, it is punishable with a fine of Rs. 25 which may extend to Rs. 100 or imprisonment of three months or with both. Performing operations like Phooka or any other operations to improve lactation which is injurious to the health of the animal is punishable with a fine of Rs. 1000 or imprisonment up to 2 years or both. The government further has the power to forfeit or seize or destroy the animal. Contravention of any order of the committee regarding experimentation on animals is punishable with a fine up to Rs. 200.
It clearly shows that such an act has never seen the light of Amendment, therefore the Central government has proposed New set of punishments under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals 1960. Where they would be increasing the penalty to Rs 75,000 or “three times the cost of the animal” and a jail term of up to five years (or both) for injuring or killing an animal. Such a change has been welcomed by many like PETA and many animal lovers in the society.
It is very important for not only for the Legislature to understand the given situation but the most importantly the people who share the Society with such Animals.
Such a step by the Government must be welcomed with open hands and also the people living in the society should object to such Injustice and Crimes towards Animals, as they also have the Right to Life through the Indian Constitution.