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In Re: Bruno - Animal Owners Shall Register The Animals With Local Self Govt Bodies Within Six Months: Kerala High Court

Hannah M Varghese
15 July 2021 1:37 AM GMT
In Re: Bruno - Animal Owners Shall Register The Animals With Local Self Govt Bodies Within Six Months: Kerala High Court
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"Future owners of animals to register their animals with the local authority concerned within three months of acquiring the said animal".

The Kerala High Court on Wednesday issued additional guidelines and suggestions to improve the condition of animal welfare in the state. A Division Bench of Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar and Justice P Gopinath also impleaded certain animal welfare organizations such as DAYA and Angels Nair, General Secretary for Animal Legal Force Integration as additional respondents in the matter....

The Kerala High Court on Wednesday issued additional guidelines and suggestions to improve the condition of animal welfare in the state.

A Division Bench of Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar and Justice P Gopinath also impleaded certain animal welfare organizations such as DAYA and Angels Nair, General Secretary for Animal Legal Force Integration as additional respondents in the matter. The Court declared that this matter will be heard bi-weekly till the directions were implemented efficiently. 

Registration of Animals

High Court has asked the  State Government  to direct local self-government bodies to immediately issue public notices requiring owners of all animals to register the animals with them within 6 months Additionally, it was also suggested to make such registration mandatory within 3 months of owning any animal. The Court recalled how there used to be a licensing regulation similar to this system, but observed that this was not pursued in earnest under the Panchayat Rules.

Such registration would help in a multitude of ways, the Bench observed. For example, a lot of animals are found abandoned across the State. These animals can be taken into a shelter, but their owner has to be traced and discouraged from keeping any more pets. This could apply to people who hurt or maim animals as well. Registration made this process easier.

Similarly, the Court recalled how there used to be an aluminum tag for every animal that was registered. There was once even an initiative to insert microchips for every animal registered for easy identification of animals. These should be brought back and implemented in a strict sense across the State. The Bench also suggested that a fee could be collected for the same since it was a service. Such measures could be helpful for vaccination and tracing purposes as well, the Court held.

During the proceedings, it was urged that the concerned authorities implement the Rules applicable and align their actions accordingly since a lot of thought was put in while framing them.

Other Relevant Directions:

  • Animal Birth Control

  • The Court expressed concerns regarding the birth control measures taken by organizations that are not competent to handle such matters. It was brought to the attention of the court that animal birth control measures were currently being implemented through bodies like the Kudumbasree. The State was directed to inform the Court as to whether the Kudumbasree is an organisation registered with the Animal Welfare Board of India, as mandated by the Rules. 

Accordingly, the respondents were directed to submit an inventory with the details of all facilities operated by the state for animal birth control. The first step was to identify the gap in the infrastructure required and the infrastructure provided by the State. 

In addition, the Division Bench suggested that the State can hold hands with private players to achieve better implementation of the guidelines. There were several private organizations operating shelters equipped with infrastructure for proper medical treatment for animals. These organizations were also very well-informed and dedicated to their cause, and the State could benefit from them if public-private participation was launched. 

As a result, a proposal was put forth by the Court where till the State had its own competent infrastructure to cater to the needs of animals, it could participate with the private players and maybe even fund them to an extent. An analogy was made to the education sector in this regard. If the private players were found to be in compliance with the regulations in force, partially funding them and involving them in the process could go a long way in realizing our objective, the Court opined

The respondents were also directed to make a list of all the competent medical facilities available in the State for animals along with a list of all qualified veterinary doctors so that a database can be created. This was to be done immediately after reconstitution of the Board so that the database could be uploaded on their official website and made accessible to the citizenry.

  • Removal of Posters Urging Pets To Be Caged/Chained

The Court's attention was also brought to a set of posters that were issued by the Animal Welfare Department across the state veterinary clinics. the Court opined that these posters 'say things an animal welfare body should not say'. A clause on the poster stated that domestic animals should be chained or caged at all times and warned of penalties otherwise. Similarly, it said that stray dogs should not be fed or given water. The Court found these clauses disturbing and directed the respondents to issue a general instruction to remove these posters today itself.

  • Inaction From Police

Another aspect that brought to the court's notice was the inaction of police authorities when complaints regarding animal rights were field. Advocate M. Uma Devi, representing DAYA, alleged that they do not get the required cooperation from the police and that it was difficult to get a complaint registered. it was submitted that even if a complaint a registered, nothing has been acted upon. The Counsel argued that such inaction could lead to the offenders assuming that these offences are trivial and thereby fails to disincentivize the public.

To this, the Court responded that there are two aspects to this issue; one was animal welfare, while another was changing the mindset of the citizenry. The second step could only be done when people realise that the State takes interest in the matter and that this will take time. However, considering that this was prevalent in the State, the Director-General of Prosecution was asked to give a general direction to the police department and the State that for every incident reported, an FIR should be filed and appropriate action must be taken by the authorities.

The matter has been posted to Monday for further directions. 

Earlier this month, it had directed the State Animal Welfare Board to be reconstituted in its earlier hearing. When questioned about its status today, the Additional Advocate General Ashok M Cherian submitted that steps have been taken for reconstitution and that 20 persons had been identified as members. He asserted that this will take two more weeks for completion.

The Division Bench emphasized that this was an important step and that the other directions could only be enforced once this Board was constituted. Another significant aspect considered in this regard was that of the composition of the Board. It was observed that there was no statutory regulation regarding this, so the Court questioned if there was any yardstick adopted to appoint members to the Board. Such appointments were directed to be made considering the objectives of the Board, thereby implying that individuals who are keen to discharge its functions should be appointed.

Advocate Hariraj appeared before the Court and submitted that he had filed an IA recording the earlier constitution of the State Animal Welfare Board. For the sake of efficiency, the Court suggested that in the absence of a statutory requirement, it was better to keep a smaller committee rather than a humongous one to meet the objectives of the Board. This was to be done on a priority basis within two weeks.

During this discussion, Advocate Jayasankar on behalf of the Centre added that there was a Bill pending before the Parliament which was underway, at the verge of being passed that provided for the composition of a State Animal Welfare Board. A copy of the same was directed to be forwarded to the concerned authorities such that they can constitute the Board accordingly. It was also pointed out that there were Supreme Court guidelines addressing the issue of the composition of State Boards in the absence of statutory requirements. The Court directed the authority to consider these guidelines as well.

Background:

The Kerala High Court had recently registered a suo motu PIL to monitor state action in reported instances of cruelty to animals and in the matter o prevention of cruelty to animals. Following this, notices were issued to the Centre, State and Animal Welfare Board of India respectively.

This comes after Justice Jayasankaran Nambiar addressed a letter to the CJI urging to take cognizance of a news report of three minors perpetrating the inhuman killing of a dog named Bruno on a beach in Thiruvananthapuram. Although a police case had been registered in the matter, the letter emphasized the prosecution in related matters was seldom purposive and expeditious.

The primary concern expressed in the letter was that the Indian legislations for the protection of animals were founded on the premise of the superiority of the human species over all others

It also urged that time has now come to push the State and its instrumentalities into taking affirmative action to safeguard the rights of Animals. It had elaborated on several instances where the judiciary had upheld such rights for the welfare of animals.

The suo moto proceedings were later renamed to In Re: Bruno in memory of the hapless dog that succumbed to the inhuman acts of three youngsters. This interesting development had made headlines after the Division Bench directed the Registry to rename the writ, apart from issuing suggestions to promote animal welfare in the State.

The investigation in the case was reported to be almost complete and that the final report is likely to be submitted before the Magistrate Court shortly.

However, the Court was also informed that certain proceedings were initiated against the owners of the deceased animal (Bruno), possibly with a view to pressurise the owners into compounding the offence and withdrawing the complaint. The Director-General of Prosecution was thereby directed to enquire into this development inform this Court as to whether any proceedings have been initiated against the owners of the deceased dog and the nature of those proceedings.

Case Title: In Re Bruno v. Union of India

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