A PIL has been filed before the Supreme Court seeking to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (PCA Act) in order to include stringent punishments for perpetrators of animal cruelty.
The Petitioner, Advocate Sankalp Golatkar, has contended that the root cause of the exponential rise in animal cruelty cases is the "infinitesimal penalty" imposed on the perpetrators under the Act, wherein they get away by paying a fine of just Rs. 50 and with no imprisonment.
He has prayed that the impugned Act should be amended in a time bound manner, by taking into consideration the Draft Animal Welfare Act of 2011, the Animal Welfare Bill, 2014 and the Private Member Bill, 2016 that proposed to expand the scope of cruelty to animals and enhance penalties for the same, but were not passed by the Parliament.
He pointed out that India has been accorded grade 'C' by the Animal Protection Index, 2020 which ranks 50 countries around the world according to their animal welfare policy and legislation.
This, he submitted, is because the Government has failed to amend the penalties of the PCA Act in 60 years, and the Act does not keep with the present times or with the judicial pronouncements.
Attention has been drawn towards the Supreme Court's remarks in Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja & Ors. (2014) 7 SCC 547, whereby a division bench opined that penalties prescribed in the PCA Act are "inadequate" and the Parliament is "expected" to make proper amendments and provide an "effective deterrent".
In the interregnum, he has urged the Court to issue guidelines with regards to the punishment for animal abuse, until the amendments to the PCA Act are enforced.
Establishment of District Level Societies for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
The Petitioner has sought enforcement of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Establishment and Regulation of Societies for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Rules, 2001 whereby the Government is obligated to establish a State Animal Welfare Board in each state and constitute Societies for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in every district.
It is stated that even the Supreme Court had in Geeta Seshamani v. Union of India & Anr., directed all the States to establish State Animal Welfare Boards within three months and to constitute SPCAs in every district keeping. However, the direction remains non-complied with.
Amend Sections 428 and 429 of IPC
The Petitioner has prayed offences under Sections 428 (Mischief by killing or maiming animal of the value of ten rupee) and 429 (Mischief by killing or maiming cattle, etc., of any value or any animal of the value of fifty rupees) of IPC should be made applicable to all the animals, irrespective of their "value".
Significantly, these "primitive provisions" are applicable only to such animals that hold a certain value and do not offer protection to stray animals as they do not have any monetary value; such stray animals are not household pets of anyone, and are deprived of protection against cruelty merely because they cannot be classified as a "property".
The Petitioner has asserted that the Indian Constitution recognizes animal rights under Article 48A (Protection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wildlife) Article 51A(g) (Duty to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures).
Further it is stated that application of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution is not restricted to human life alone but also extends to the life of an animal (Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja (Supra)) and therefore, the State is duty bound to protect the lives of animals.