24 July 2023 4:23 PM GMT
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain a petition filed by former Indian cricket team captain Kapil Dev challenging the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act which allow "the destruction of stray dogs in lethal chambers or by such other methods as may be prescribed" and "the extermination or destruction of any animal under the authority of any law".The petition...
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain a petition filed by former Indian cricket team captain Kapil Dev challenging the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act which allow "the destruction of stray dogs in lethal chambers or by such other methods as may be prescribed" and "the extermination or destruction of any animal under the authority of any law".
The petition was filed by Dev along with two other activists in the backdrop of a shocking incident of a stray pregnant dog being tortured and killed in Delhi in November 2022. The petition highlighted several reported instances of animal cruelty across the country to argue that the law is inadequate.The petitioners had also sought for guidelines to ensure dignified treatment to animals and for effective prosecution in complaints of animal cruelty. The petitioners also contended that the punishments prescribed for animal cruelty are inadequate and hence challenged the constitutionality of Section 11(1) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and Sections 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code.
The Court observed that the High Courts can be moved for the reliefs sought. A bench comprising Justices Hrishikesh Roy and Pankaj Mithal allowed the petitioners to withdraw the petition giving them liberty to approach the concerned High Court.
Senior Advocate Aman Lekhi, appearing on behalf of the petitioner, pointed out that as per Section 428 IPC, the offence of killing or maiming an animal of the value of ten rupees is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years. However, as per Section 429 IPC, the same offence is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend up to five years if the value of the animal is Rs.50. He contended that fixing different punishments for the same offence of animal cruelty on the basis of the commercial and utility value of the animal is wholly unreasonable and arbitrary.
He also referred to Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja(2014) where it was observed : “Animals also have a right against human beings not to be tortured and against infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering. Penalty for violation of those rights are insignificant, since laws are made by humans. Punishment prescribed in Section 11(1) is not commensurate with the gravity of the offence, hence being violated with impunity defeating the very object and purpose of the Act”.
Section 11 gravely misused to allow rampant killing of "stray and unwanted" animals
Lekhi submitted that Section 11(3) (b) and (c) of the Act provide for the destruction of stray dogs in lethal chambers or by such other methods and for the extermination or destruction of any animal. He further referred to section 9 (f) of PCA 1960, the Animal Welfare Board has “to take all such steps to ensure that unwanted animals are destroyed by local authorities".
In doing so, the Act itself creates an unfair classification between utilitarian and unwanted animals and attaches value to their lives as such.
No guidelines to prevent trauma for exceptions carved under section 11(3) of the Act contended Petitioner
The petitioner contended that Section 11 (3) of PCA,1960 carves out exceptions for animal husbandry procedures such as dehorning, castration, nose-roping, and branding of animals. However, no guidelines through rules or regulations have been laid down for these procedures to be carried out without inflicting trauma upon the animal.
Why come to SC directly? Bench asks
On the bench asking why the petitioner has chosen to approach the Supreme Court directly, Lekhi replied that the reliefs sought related to the implementation of the Act across the country and was not confined to the jurisdiction of any particular High Court.
He further submitted the issue pertains to the misuse of a Central Act, which has consequences across India. He submitted that in the application of law, the animals have been reduced to having an instrumental value only. Referring to precedents, Lekhi argued that the Courts have intervened to fill in the gap where the law is inadequate and the legislature is dragging its feet.
Despite the persuasive arguments of the senior counsel, the bench said that it has reservations about entertaining the matter since the High Courts are also equally capable of granting the reliefs.
"Your petitioners' standing is very high in the country, the will earn the same respect even if they go to HC", the bench said. "When the Supreme Court takes up such cases, it gives an impression that the high court is not capable of taking up such issues", it added.
“After some submissions into the matter, the petitioner prays for liberty to withdraw writ petition so that they’re in a position to move HC with prayers made in this W.P. Accepting the above, WP stands dismissed", the bench noted in the order.
Case title: Kapil Dev and others v Union of India |W.P.(Crl.) No. 000536 - / 2022
For petitioners Senior Advocate Aman Lekhi along with AOR Shraddha Deshmukh
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