India, the seventh largest country in the world, is one of the most bio-diverse regions of the world containing four of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots. It is home to animals ranging from the Bengal Tigers to the Great Indian Rhinoceros and animal protection and welfare in the country has taken a prominent position over recent years.
Protection of animals is enshrined as a fundamental duty in the Indian Constitution and there exist several animal welfare legislations in India such as 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.
The 42nd Amendment to the Indian Constitution in 1976 was a progressive step toward laying the groundwork for animal protection in India. The constitutional provisions establishing the duty of animal protection have resulted in the enactment of animal protection legislations both at the central and state level, most notable of which is the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960. Furthermore, over the years Indian courts have developed a growing legal jurisprudence in animal law.
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 of the IPC provide for the punishment of all acts of cruelty such as killing, poisoning, maiming, or rendering useless of animals. The aforementioned legislations have been enacted to obviate unnecessary pain and suffering of animals and similar legislations continue to be enacted according to changing circumstances. Notwithstanding specific statutes, further protections for animals lie under general concepts such as tort law, constitutional law, etc.
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:
- Advising the central government regarding amendments and rules to prevent unnecessary pain while transporting animals, performing experiments on animals or storing animals in captivity.
- Encouragement of financial assistance, rescue homes and animal shelters for old animals.
- Advising the government on medical care and regulations for animal hospitals.
- Imparting education and awareness on humane treatment of animals.
- Advising the central government regarding general matters of animal welfare.
The Act enumerates different variants of cruelty to animals under Section 11 as the following actions:
a) Beating, kicking, overriding, overloading, torturing and causing unnecessary pain to any animal.
b) Using an old or injured or unfit animal for work (the punishment applies to the owner as well as the user).
c) Administering an injurious drug/medicine to any animal.
d) Carrying an animal in any vehicle in a way that causes it pain and discomfort.
e) Keeping any animal in a cage where it doesn’t have reasonable opportunity of movement.
f) Keeping an animal on an unreasonably heavy or short chain for an unreasonable period of time.
g) Keeping an animal in total and habitual confinement with no reasonable opportunity to exercise.
h) Being an owner failing to provide the animal with sufficient food, drink or shelter.
i) Abandoning an animal without reasonable cause.
j) Wilfully permitting an owned animal to roam on streets or leaving it on the streets to die of disease, old age or disability.
k) Offering for sale an animal which is suffering pain due to mutilation, starvation, thirst, overcrowding or other ill-treatment.
l) Mutilating or killing animals through cruel manners such as using strychnine injections.
m) Using an animal as bait for another animal solely for entertainment.
n) Organizing, keeping, using, or managing any place for animal fighting.
o) Shooting an animal when it is released from captivity for such a purpose.
Part IV of the Act covers the Experimentation with animals. The Act does not render unlawful experimentation on animals for the purpose of advancement by new discovery of physiological knowledge or knowledge to combat disease, whether of human beings, animals or plants. It envisages the creation of a Committee for control and supervision of experiments on animals by the central government which even has the power to prohibit experimentation if so required.
Chapter V covers the area of performing animals. Section 22 prohibits exhibiting or training an animal without registration with the AWBI. The Section prohibits animals such as monkeys, bears, lions, tigers, panthers and bulls from being utilized as performing animals.
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 offense, 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 of up to Rs. 200.