While India enacted the “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” law in 1960, minimum penalties and lack of data were hallmarks of its implementation. The government has also recognized that minimum sentences do not act as a deterrent. However, there has been no serious effort to change the legislation or even make the data available.
Section 51A (g) of the Indian Constitution states that it is the fundamental duty of every Indian citizen to protect and enhance the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to ‘have compassion for living creatures. Nonetheless, numerous incidents of animal cruelty have come to light via social media in recent years. Brutal crimes against animals such as the death of a pregnant elephant who ate pineapple containing explosives, a dog beaten to death, torched puppies, dragging dogs tied to a scooter, raping a cow and the execution of monkeys are reported across the country and have taken social media by storm.
India has many laws to protect animals
The prevention of cruelty to animals has been included in the concurrent list, which means that the governments of the Union and of the States have the power to enact legislation in this area. There are basically three animal welfare laws in India viz. Section 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Besides the three, there are other laws such as The Performing Animals Rules, 1973, The Transport of Animals Rules, 1978, and The Experiments On Animals (Control And Supervision) Rules, 1968, which are specific to certain activities.
Articles 428 and 429 of the IPC treat the killing or mutilation of animals as a recognizable offense
Under Articles 428 and 429 of the IPC, causing mischief by killing or mutilating an animal worth ten rupees or more is an identifiable offense punishable by two years in prison, a fine or both. If a designated animal of any value or worth Rs. 50 or more is killed or maimed, the penalty can be up to five years in prison and / or a fine.
The Fauna Protection Act deals with the protection of flora and fauna to ensure ecological safety
The 1972 Wildlife Protection Act aims to protect all plant and animal species in the country to ensure environmental and ecological safety. The law prohibits the hunting of endangered animals while providing for the creation of wildlife reserves, national parks and zoos. According to article 51 of the law, any person who contravenes a provision of the law will be guilty of the offenses enumerated in the law and will be liable, on conviction, to a term of imprisonment of three years or to a fine of up to Rs. 25,000 or both. The jail term can be up to seven years for offenses against specific animals.
Animal cruelty prevention law deals with captive and domestic animals
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (PCA) is legislation that deals exclusively with captive and domestic animals. The purpose of the law is to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals, like the incidents mentioned at the beginning of the story. The act defines animals as any living creature other than a human being. It also defines what captive and domestic animals are, as the legislation is applicable to both types of animals.
Chapter 3 of the law lists the various acts that are considered cruel treatment of animals. These include physical damage such as beatings, crushing, torture, overloading, engagement in work despite illness, administration of dangerous drugs, confinement in cages where animals cannot. movement, lack of water, food and shelter, abandonment in situations where the animal has to suffer, the animal fights for money and keeps the animal chained for a long period of time time. However, acts of dehorning of livestock, nasal cordage, castration, destruction of stray dogs in lethal chambers or by other methods with minimal suffering or extermination of animals under legal authority, and preparation for human consumption, are exempt from the scope of cruelty, provided that it is done in the prescribed manner with a minimum of suffering and pain inflicted on the animals.
The law imposes a fine between Rs. 10 to Rs. 50 for first offense. This can go up to Rs. 100 in the event of a repeat offense within 3 years and / or imprisonment up to 3 months.
Animal Welfare Board of India was established by law
The law also created the Indian Council for Animal Welfare (AWBI) to promote animal welfare and protect animals from cruelty. The main function of the Council is to keep the law in force in India, to adopt essential measures to improve the conditions of the animals and to advise the Ministry of Fisheries, Livestock and Dairy and governments on the promulgation of rules under the Act. As of July 2021, the AWBI had recognized more than 3,661 animal welfare organizations across India. The board of directors provides funds for the maintenance of animal shelters, drugs, medical equipment and the organization of veterinary camps, among other activities.
Although the AWBI is an advisory body to Union and State Governments, the implementation of statutory laws is the primary duty of the State Government along with prevention, detection, registration and prevention. crime investigation. AWBI writes regularly to States / UTs to ensure that cruel acts are avoided and that provisions and rules are implemented.
AWBI, in its annual reports, provides details of complaints received regarding cruelty to animals in the country as well as the actions taken. Complaints received by AWBI are forwarded to the respective States / UTs for action. Since 2014-15, a total of 1,901 cases have been forwarded to States / UTs by AWBI. Data is available until July 25, 2021.
Latest data on cases registered under the Animal Cruelty Prevention Act not available
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reports data on all types of crime in the country through its annual “Crime in India (CII)” report. It aggregates crimes under special and local laws (SLL) such as the “Animal Cruelty Prevention Act” and does not provide data specific to crimes recorded under each of these laws. Therefore, the latest annual data on the number of cases registered under the “Law on the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” is not available. However, the government told parliament in 2016 that up to 7,853, 14,235 and 2,265 cases were registered under this law in 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 respectively. A total of 11,950 people were convicted in 2012-2013, 20,164 in 2013-2014 and 3,801 people were convicted in 2014-2015. It should be noted that data for many states was not provided in this parliamentary response.
FIAPO report speaks of insufficient data
According to a report released by the Federation of Indian Animal Welfare Organizations (FIAPO) and All Creatures Great and Small (ACGS), between 2010 and 2020, a total of 4,939,910 animals were involved in various incidents. This, however, does not mean that all of these animals were subjected to cruelty. The report also states that most states do not record crimes against animals and therefore there is no data to analyze. The organization did secondary research through newspaper articles and other sources and compiled some statistics.
The report lists 720 cases of crimes against street animals, 741 cases against draft animals, 588 cases against pets, 88 cases against farm animals and 258 cases against wild animals and birds. About 1,000 cases of assault have been documented, including 82 cases of sexual abuse, 266 cases of cold-blooded murder and over 400 cases of violent attacks consisting of beating, kicking, torturing, throwing acid or boiling water, mutilating part of the body, attacking with a knife or blunt object. 20 of the documented cases were child abuse.
The government recognizes that the penalties provided by the PCA Act do not act as a deterrent
The Animal Cruelty Prevention Act is now a 60 year old law with no major changes in recent times. The monetary fines imposed for crimes against animals continue to be meager, in the range of Rs. 10 to Rs. 100. This could be one of the reasons why the legislation has not been able to have a deterrent effect on cruelty to animals. The government also accepted in the government of Lok Sabha received many suggestions, petitions and requests from various sections of the companies to increase the existing penalties in the PCA law. In the same response, the government acknowledged that the penalties provided for in the PCA Act are minimal and do not have a deterrent effect.
A bill called the Animal Welfare Act 2011 was proposed in 2011 to replace the 1960 law but has not been able to make much headway. In addition, several private members’ bills have been introduced in parliament, including an amendment to increase the penalty. As with all private members’ bills, none of them were accepted. Likewise, the 261st report of the Law Commission had established some guidelines and listed suggestions in 2015, which have not yet been incorporated.
As noted earlier in this story, the lack of availability of data on cases registered under the PCA law is another major issue as no trend analysis is possible without data. Course correction and policy interventions also suffer from a lack of data.
It is high time that India proposed legislation with strict provisions to replace the PCA law. India must also ensure that data on cases related to animal cruelty is properly maintained and made available by the NCRB or other agencies, as is the case with other crimes. India can take a cue from countries like the UK, where penalties include a lifetime ban on owning pets, a maximum jail term of 51 weeks and a sentence of up to £ 20,000.
The selected image: Animal cruelty cases in India