Law is not a static concept, it changes with time. Laws are formulated for the betterment of a society and since society changes, therefore the laws that govern society need to be replaced, reformed and advanced with the society. This change is necessary so that there is satisfaction in the society, enhancement of justice and efficiency. Any change in social rules in society is followed by the change in the laws. The laws were initially for humans so that a civilized society with certain rules can be formed, afterwards laws made for others such as for fetus, climate, outer space and so on. On the same line, in the year of 1960, the Parliament of Republic of India enacted the laws for the ‘mute creatures’, animals. This law is the cornerstone for stray, domesticated or captive held animals or in short other than wild animals. Despite the law, the atrocities towards animals show that law is impotent. According to the reports composed by the Federation Of Indian Animal Protection and All Creatures Great and Small, a total of 4,93,910 animals were suffered in the hands of humans in a span of 10 years from 2010 to 2020. This means there are approximately 135 animals against whom crimes are committed each day in India. These are mere reported crimes while unreported crimes may be tenfold. Many crimes are not reported as they may be inflicted by their own masters or due to ignorance.
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act of 1960
There is a complete chapter dedicated to cruelty against animals. In chapter 3, section 11 deals with cruelty generally inflicted on animals and its punishment. It expresses the list of acts and situations which will be considered as cruelty.
If any person beats, kicks, overrides, over-drives, over-loads, tortures or otherwise treats any animal which causes unnecessary pain or suffering or if he is himself the owner allows to treat his animal in the same way it will be considered as cruelty against the animal. Employing any animal who is unfit to be employed in such work due to age, disease, infirmity, wound, sore or other cause or being owner permits to employ that unfit animal in any such work or labour will be regarded as cruelty. Administration of drugs or any injurious substance to animals or attempts to administer or cause animals to take such substances or attempts to cause animals to administer such substance or drug unreasonably will be an act of cruelty. If any animal is transported in such a way that it causes unnecessary suffering and pain to animals is an act of cruelty.
Keeping an animal in a compact area or cage which does not provide enough movement space, using short or heavy chains to chained animals for an unreasonable long time, leaving an animal in such a situation that it will cause suffering due starvation or thirst will come under the cruelty against the animal.
Selling any animal or possessing such an animal which is in pain due to overcrowding, mutilation starvation , thirst or other ill treatment is an act of cruelty. Using cruel manner or method to kill or to mutilate any animal such as strychnine injection is also a cruelty. As an owner, if such a person failed to provide sufficient water, food or shelter, to let any contagious disease animal to go out in streets or permit any infected, diseased or disabled animal to die in streets will amount to cruelty.
If any person only for purpose of entertainment keep animal in confined area as bait of other animal, incite animal to fight or bait any other animal or , promotes or takes part in any kind of activity in which animals are freed from captivity for shooting purpose, organises, keeps, uses or acts in the management of, any place for animal fighting or for the purpose of baiting any animal or permit other to use or offer other will be acts of cruelty against animals.
Section 12 provides, any act of injecting any substance or any other operation, in milch animals in order to improve lactation is prohibited if such injecting substance or operation is harmful for the health of animals.
For all the offences mentioned under section 11 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act of 1960 if the offence is committed for the first time then fine of not less than 10 rupees expandable upto 50 rupees. If the offence is committed within three years of previously committed offence then the amount of fine increased to minimum 25 rupees extendable upto 100 rupees. This time provision of maximum 3 months of imprisonment is also added. If the owner has committed the offence only due to failure of exercising reasonable care or supervision then the option of fine is to be provided to him before imprisoning. In contravention with the section 12 of the act, the punishment if fine of 1000 rupees or imprisonment extendable upto two years and the animal on which such operation is formed will be forfeited to the state.
Even for other offences mentioned under chapter 4 that deals with experimentation on animal, the penalty for contravention of order or breach of condition by the committee the punishment is mere fine extendable upto 200 rupees. Similarly if any person breaches conditions or orders under chapter ‘performing animal’ the penalty will be fine expandable upto 500 rupees or imprisonment upto 3 months or with both.
Problems in the current system
The problem is clearly visible in the above mentioned part. The quantum of punishment is the most concerned problem with these laws. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act is the principal act against the atrocities faced by the animals. This act was enacted in 1960 and the amount of fine was sufficient at those times but in current scenarios, these fines are futile.
Animal welfare provisions are provided in article 48 and 51A. Both of these articles do not provide the strength to enforce these welfare provisions. Welfare laws in the constitution merely are principles and direction and not laws that are enforceable in court of law.
The sections of the act are non cognizable. Therefore police cannot take cognizance of offence without the permission of the magistrate. Also even after the magistrate allows investigation, the police can only arrest accused after the arrest warrant. All this leads to delay in the investigation and deter the police officials and the complainant to file complaints as it is time consuming. There are no laws that confer rights and provide safety to persons who feed stray animals. There are no laws for volunteers who feed animals. Although Delhi High Court had issued directions to Delhi Police to make sure no harm is done to volunteers who feed animals but this is not applicable in each state.
The solutions for this toothless act are simple. The Animal Welfare Board India had already drafted the welfare bill twice and there was a private member bill drafted. None of them were passed and are still hanging in parliament. These drafts emphasized in stricter punishment, a shift from a defensive position to a positive, welfare-driven and well-being oriented approach, including a few more classes of offence of cruelty. Only when the punishment becomes strict, the cruelty against animals will be reduced.
Secondly, Section 28 of the act provides safeguarding against any religious activity. A critical analysis is required so that activities which are essential as per religion and which are not can be distinguished. The activities which are irrelevant should be banned.
It is no longer a matter of cruelty against animals but it is the right of animals to live with dignity. In Nagaraja Case, the Supreme Court had granted numerous rights to animals. These are: the right to live with dignity, freedom from fear and distress, pain, injury and disease, to express normal patterns of behavior, hunger, thirst and malnutrition, physical and thermal discomfort.
In a country like India where the principle of ahimsa is followed the cruelty against the animals should be considered as a heinous crime and requires strict punishment. No person is born a criminal therefore the persons who do cruelty against animals can be reduced by teaching them about the importance of having compassion with animals as well. By inculcating good behaviors, the offenders can be reduced. Also, it is required that a special tribunal is needed to be set to entertain the cases related to animals. Society has reached such a level that rights to animals can be discussed. Only when the government and the general public will work together for betterment, any progress in the conditions of animals can be spotted. Until then the cases like killing monkeys by hanging, poisoning of puppies etc will continue to flood the news.
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