The Uttarakhand High Court on Wednesday declared the “entire animal kingdom including avian and aquatic” as legal entities with a distinct persona and corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.
The Bench comprising Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Lok Pal Singh observed, “The Corporations, Hindu idols, holy scriptures, rivers have been declared legal entities and thus, in order to protect and promote greater welfare of animals including avian and aquatic, animals are required to be conferred with the status of legal entity/ legal person. The animals should be healthy, comfortable, well- nourished, safe, able to express innate behaviour without pain, fear and distress. They are entitled to justice.”
The Court was hearing a petition filed by one Mr. Narayan Dutt Bhatt seeking directions for restricting movement of horse carts/tongas from Nepal to India and vice versa through the Champawat District. He had essentially demanded that the horses be vaccinated and checked for infections before being allowed into the Indian territory from Nepal. The scope of the petition was, however, enlarged to encompass protection and welfare of all animals.
It then went on to highlight the laws in place for welfare of animals, including the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act), and emphasised on the need to adhere to these laws, observing, “The principle of equality of all species found in Isha Upanishads is the culture and tradition of the country, particularly the States of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.
The PCA Act has been enacted with an object to safeguard the welfare of the animals and evidently to cure some mischief and age old practices, so as to bring into effect some type of reform, based on eco-centric principles, recognising the intrinsic value and worth of animals. So far as animals are concerned, “life” means something more than mere survival or existence or instrumental value for human being, but to lead a life with some intrinsic worth, honour and dignity.”
The Court then issued the following directions:
Regulation and medical checkup of animals before entering India
Research on maximum weight to be carried by draught animals and certain pack animals
Spikes or sticks to tackle animals banned
Guidelines for transport of animals
Appointment of veterinary officers
Restrictions on transporting animals on foot
Duties of police officers
Constitution of societies for prevention of cruelty to animals
Treatment and housing of stray animals
Right of way for carts driven by animals
In March, 2017, a bench headed by Justice Rajiv Sharma had also declared the rivers Ganga and Yamuna, all their tributaries, streams, every natural water flowing with flow continuously or intermittently of these rivers, as juristic/legal persons/living entities having the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person. The Supreme Court had, however, stayed the judgment in July, 2017.
Read the Judgment Here