Evaluating the Effectiveness of Animal Cruelty Punishment Methods in India
This Blog is written by Saptaswara Chakraborty from North Eastern Hill University, Meghalaya. Edited by Karan Dutt.
Animals, just like humans, possess the sense of feeling pain which includes both mental and physical pain. However, we as humans have forgotten this aspect and so we treat animals inhumanely. So, to protect them and to let them thrive in this world, which equally is theirs, the Prevention of Cruelty Act, 1961 was passed. The Act, which was framed several decades prior, envisages a sentencing policy and penalties that during that time, probably were adequate, but need to be re-examined now in terms of the adequacy and nature of liability imposed. The unimportance given to the animals is visible from the existing legislations available which imposes liability towards such a person who commits such cruelty. The only available punishment for such an act is the maximum criminal liability of fifty rupees on the perpetrators based on its current application.
In India, though numerous developments have been made in the field of law and justice, there is significant underdevelopment in the field of legislation for the voiceless, which in this case is the animals. As has been mentioned, the legislation on the Protection of Cruelty against Animals, came into existence in the year 1961, which till date has not yet been amended meaning that the monetary fines have still not yet been brought in consonance with the present date and age and that the fine which was previously decided in the year 1960 still stands the same to this day.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE DEVELOPMENT
The reason for the existence of the PCA can largely be attributed to Rukmini Devi Arundale who in the year 1952, introduced a private members bill in the Rajya Sabha to remove the Protection of Cruelty Act, 1890 because of the various inadequacies that it contained. Finally, the previous legislation was removed with a newer one. The significance of this development was that the bill identified the need for the protection of animals. The PCA of 1890, was limited in its approach and so it only covered to a limited extent the ambit of this law and also specified very few, specific types of cruelty towards animals. However, the introduction of the present bill for the first time included within its ambit also included protection to research animals in the sphere of research and experimentation. It also brought into existence the Animal Welfare Board of India, which was instituted as a statutory body to oversee and promote the welfare of animals and also to provide recommendations to the Central Government.
Thus the significance of such an act is on the fact that it is the most widely applicable set of laws in the sphere of animal rights.
The PCA has listed out several offences that have been identified and for the same several punishments have been prescribed. Section 11 of the PCA is the main section that punishes the instances of cruelty by listing specific offences. It provides a specific list of such offences including, those that have the potential of beating, kicking, over-riding, over-driving, over-loading, torturing, which causes unnecessary pain or suffering to any animal, and many other offences punishable. In the case of Bali Parida v. Nira Parida, the Orissa High Court 1969 SCC OnLine Ori 129 interpreted the section that section 11 can only be invoked only when there is a nexus between the act of cruelty and unnecessary pain or suffering. However, the usage of the term unnecessary feeling as of today remains vague and a proper understanding of both necessary and unnecessary feelings yet remains to be discussed.
The most recent example of the impact that was done through this legislation can be seen in the aspect of the ban that was done to the sport of Jalikattu. In the case of Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja (‘Nagaraja’) (2014) 7 SCC 547, ¶¶89, 90., the Supreme Court recognized that the acts of cruelty which have been enumerated, if, allowed would then result in the act being unconstitutional. It further went on to discuss how the game if Jalikattu violated section 3, section 11(1)(a), section 11(1)(m), section11(1)(n) and section 22 of the PCA (which relate to competitions or matches between animals, wherein animals are made to fight or perform), and Art. 51-A(g) and (h) of the Constitution (which are Fundamental duties under the Constitution).
It moreover contemplates certain duty on the part of humans which they owe to the animals. It prescribes both the positive as well as a negative duty on the part of humans.
All of these developments and the enumeration of laws provides the idea that steps have been made to ensure humane treatment towards the voiceless.
As has been discussed before, Section 11 is the main section that contemplates and imposes penalties as well as recognises the offences. It provides a list of the offences that would amount to as being cruelty. This includes beat, kick, over-ride, over-drive, over-load, torture or otherwise treat any animal to subject it to unnecessary pain or suffering. Section 11(1)(g) also moves on stating that if the owner is found of a dog to habitually confine the dog with no reasonable care then such an act would be seen as an offence.
Section 11 has been seen as being a penal section that confers rights upon the animals and duties and obligations on the part of all the persons to look and care for them. According to Section 11(o), “if a person promotes or takes part in any shooting match or competition wherein animals are released from captivity for such shooting; he shall be punishable, 19 [in the case of a first offence, with fine which shall not be less than ten rupees but which may extend to fifty rupees, and in the case of a second or subsequent offence committed within three years of the previous offence, with fine which shall not be less than twenty-five rupees but which may extend to one hundred rupees or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or with both.]”
As has been discussed before, the main section that is central to the idea of effectiveness in the punishment that is imposed for the acts of cruelty upon the animals is section 11(o). It enumerates that if a person is found to commit any of the acts that have been specified under 11(1) (a) to (o) of the Act, would make the offender liable to a fine which may extend up to 50 rupees. In the case of a subsequent offence having been committed within a span of three years, the offender shall be liable to pay a fine which may not be less than 25 rupees. Now if we look and compare the punishment that is imposed with that of the crimes that are often being committed upon animals, it would be then visible that there is a severe lack in the proportionality between the penalty and the offences that are being committed. The proportionality principle though has not been strictly codified exists as one of the basic principles to ensure fairness towards the offender and the society. Its main aim is to ensure that the offender is punished for the act which he/she has caused and that it must be measured with the effect that his/her act has caused. According to Immanuel Kant, “juridical punishment can never be administered merely as a means for promoting another good either with regard to the criminal himself or to civil society, but must be concerning imposed only because the individual on whom it is inflicted has committed a crime.” So, the maximum amount of punishment of fifty rupees cannot in the present context even be seen as a form of punishment but rather stands as a testament to the disregard that is shown by society.
The incident of the cold-blooded murder of a pregnant elephant in Kerela to that of the most recent killing of Bruno, a dog, by three minors in Kerela, suggests the position of India as far as Animal Cruelty is concerned.
Though Article 48A and Article 51A(g) of the Constitution, similarly provides the State’s responsibility to prevent the infliction of cruelty on animals, it is important to understand that more than a State’s duty, it is the duty of the people as a whole to stop such cruelties. The various incidents as having been mentioned also indicate that the law as a whole won’t be effective if the citizens do not abide by it.
The duty to ensure protection to animals is not only the State’s duty but the duty of citizens as well. The requirement of the amendments upon PCA is the need of the hour. Though various bills were introduced in the Parliament to meet the loopholes in the existing legislation, it however could never see the light of the day. Thus, it is imperative now to look into the matter closely and with much concern.