From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NA
Mains level : Preventing cruelty to animals
A draft Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Amendment) Bill, 2022, prepared by the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry, and Dairying, has been opened for public comment.
Why in news?
- Recently, instances of animal cruelty in India witnessed a surge.
- The same has ushered the debate around animal rights and the extent of legal protection that the current laws provide them.
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Amendment) Bill, 2022
- The Centre has proposed to overhaul The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, introducing 61 amendments in the law.
- It includes stringent penalties of three years’ imprisonment for committing “gruesome cruelty” including “bestiality” with animals.
Main changes proposed in the law
- Cruelty as a cognizable offence: Several offences have been made cognizable, which means offenders can be arrested without an arrest warrant.
- Recognizing gruesome cruelty: The proposed law describes “gruesome cruelty” as any act involving animals which leads to “extreme pain and suffering” and is “likely to leave the animal in life-long disability”. It includes mutilation or killing of animals by the use of strychnine injection in the heart or any other cruel manner.
- Stringent penalties: Essentially, the law is proposed to be made tighter, with more stringent punishments. The draft proposes fines from Rs 50,000 to Rs 75,000 “or the cost of the animal. For killing an animal, the draft Bill proposes a maximum punishment of five years in jail.
What are the existing penal provisions?
- An offence such as this — fairly common in India — would currently attract charges under Section 428 (mischief by killing or maiming animal) IPC and Section 11 (treating animals cruelly) of The PCA Act, 1960.
- It prescribes some rubbish penal provisions.
Need for such law
- Barbarism: In September, a doctor in Rajasthan’s Jodhpur allegedly tied a dog to his car and dragged it across the city.
- Non-deterrence: Present provisions are incapable of acting as any deterrent for potential offenders.
- Ridicules penalties: First-time offenders under the PCA Act are punished with a fine of Rs 10-50. If it is found that this is not the offender’s first such crime in the past three years, the maximum punishment would be a fine between Rs 25 and Rs 100, a jail term of three months, or both.
Key propositions for such law
- Along with animal welfare organisations and several political leaders have in the past called for the law to be amended.
- In 2014, the Supreme Court, in ‘Animal Welfare Board of India vs A Nagaraja & Others’, had said that “Parliament is expected to make proper amendment of the PCA Act to provide an effective deterrent.
- In April 2021, the Centre had proposed changes where the penalty can go up to Rs 75,000 per animal or three times the cost of the animal as determined by the jurisdictional veterinarian.
- It proposed imprisonment of three years which may extend to five years or both.
- The government has finally moved in this direction with proposed amendments.
Legal remedies in India
- The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 recognises that animals can suffer physically and mentally, and is applicable to ‘all living creatures’.
- The Constitution also enshrines the principle of ahimsa and mandates to all citizens of India to ‘have compassion for living creatures’.
- The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) is the central body responsible for animal welfare in the country.
- The National Institute for Animal Welfare created in 1999, has the broad mandate to improve animal welfare through research, education and public outreach.
- According to Section 50(4) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, a Wildlife Offence Report (WLOR) can be filed.
Apart from increasing penalties, what else is proposed?
(1) Freedoms to animals
- “It shall be the duty of every person having charge of an animal to ensure that the animal in his care or under his charge has freedom from:
- Thirst, hunger and malnutrition;
- Discomfort due to environment;
- Pain, injury and diseases;
- Fear and distress, and the
- Freedom to express normal behaviour for the species
(2) Protection to community animals
- The draft defines “community animal” as “any animal born in a community for which no ownership has been claimed by any individual or an organization, excluding wild animals as defined under the wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (53 of 1972).”
- The proposed law also says that in case of a community animal, the local government such as municipality or panchayats shall be responsible for taking care of the community animals in a manner developed by the State Government or by the Board.
Latent issues with the law
- Simply increasing the quantum of punishment may not be enough to stop cruelty against animals.
- Some already marginalised communities like ‘madaris’ (who perform with animals) and ‘saperas’ (snake charmers) may be disproportionately affected.
- Others have argued that focusing on the individual act of ‘cruelty’, such as farmers putting up electric fences around their fields, is an incomplete approach.
- Steps are needed to mitigate the larger issues of vanishing animal habitats and climate change exacerbating man-animal conflict.
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