Home Unmuting the voiceless

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

- Mahatma Gandhi

From the ancient times, India as a nation has regarded its animals as an indispensable part of the eco-system and the fact that they are worshiped across the states in different forms, goes on to indicate the compassion of people towards the fellow beings. However, that structures only one aspect of the story. The penances, murdering, beating and maltreatment of animals at the hands of the mankind is not something which is hidden from any of us. India is where animals have been adored and relinquished to divinities in no way different, since days of yore. This leads us to question the very moral grounds on which this society has evolved itself. It is absolutely stunning to one’s inner voice when the civilization has moved from one brutal society to the present day modernized society but the affability of man is by all accounts going in reverse.

The idea of humanity is abstract and hard to fit in a box; much tedious is the task of following its path. There have been innumerous instances in the country where the savagery of individuals has been delivered under the appearance of convention or mere adventure. Humans have been provided with additional or superior abilities and features so that they can provide for other creatures too, and not simply establish their own dominion to rule over them in barbarous ways. The idea of coexistence fell to the ground the moment when the mindset of having this entire planet exclusively to ourselves built up in the minds of people. Animals do not merely exist to cater to our needs as and when required. We simply cannot be so ruthless as to violate their personal territories for our mercenary goals or for any other possible intention.

The voiceless existences have always been on the mercy of man. However, it is also true that it is the man who has come forward in protection of the rights of animals. The legislation has framed various laws to prevent the ill-treatment of the wildlife, pets and other stray animals. The constitution of India recognizes the rights of animals at an equal chance of living by embedding the fundamental duty of the citizens to respect and treat all living creatures with compassion under article 51A (g). As per Article 48, the State has a duty to take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milk and draught cattle. Moreover, it is the duty of the state to protect, safeguard and improve the forests and wildlife of our country under Article 48A.

The central as well as the state legislatures have been sound in making laws for protection of animals under the powers implicit in the concurrent list. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 is one of the earliest central legislations in India framed with the sole object of preventing infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals. The act defines as what amounts to cruelty. As per section 11 of the said act, cruelty includes the act of beating, killing, subjecting it to unnecessary pain or suffering, willfully administering any injurious drug or keeping the animal in close confinement for long hours. The surprising reality that emerges here is for all the torment one exacts upon a creature, all he needs to pay for is a sheer whole of up to Rs. 50 and pull off his obligation towards it. Recently, India has witnessed very sinful cases of animal abuse and when brought to light, the culprits were made to pay a minor fine to clear their names. The question then arises is- Can the innocent lives of animals be equated with some fraction of money? Can it be said that the life of an animal isn't worth more than Rs. 50? If we take a closer look and observe, it won’t take too long to realize that these animals too have their own unique and beautiful ways of living, which unfortunately are being offended by some people. This makes us question whether these mum creatures are really as dangerous and vicious as the two legged, vocal mortals. The act certainly comes up short on the fundamental power to forestall the monstrosities towards animals. The fines laid down under the act are exceptionally insignificant in sum and do not have any effect, let alone teaching a lesson to the miscreant. The act can be termed as obsolete and lacking force because of the inadequate disciplines and penalties laid forthwith. It has not been able to keep pace with the changing time and needs of the present day world and requires a makeover. What is required is to achieve certain proportionality in the obligations of a responsible citizen just as penalties for the offenses, particularly for the repeated wrongdoers.

While it is given that our fellow creatures cannot present their case themselves, there are people who truly want to do something to provide assistance to them, but in the preponderance of the cases, a major shortcoming for them is the loose structure of laws designed for the safety and well-being of animals and those willing to help. An Animal’s Welfare Board of India has been setup under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 to aid the process of welfare of animals. It sets out the constitution and functions of the said board. The act although lays down the functions of the board however the equivalent are not clear in its activity. There is a requirement for parity of authority and responsibility and just expressing a couple of obscure capacities and not accommodating explicit forces of those responsible is doing nothing but bad. One of the most conveyed justifications from the side of the offenders has been that these animals barge into their provinces and cause hindrances in their day to day work. Be that as it may, the genuine inquiry is- Who exactly is responsible for that? Had we been considerate enough not to destroy the natural habitats of the respective animals, this would not have been an issue. And now, instead of taking responsibility for our own actions, punishing these speechless beings seem easier. Hence, a need to strengthen the laws and the implementation mechanism is a need of the hour.

The courts in India at various instances have reiterated the rights of nature and that of animals as provided under the constitution and various other statutes. Through the milestone judgment of Animal Welfare Board V. A Nagaraja, the Supreme Court emphasized on such rights of animals while stating that “Animals have dignity, honor and their rights to privacy must be protected from unlawful assault”. The court further expanded the meaning of right to life under article 21 to include within its ambit the right to life of the animals. The court held that “ Article 21 of the Constitution, while safeguarding the rights of humans, protects life and the word “life” has been given an expanded definition and any disturbance from the basic environment which includes all forms of life, including animal life, which are necessary for human life, fall within the meaning of Article 21 of the Constitution. So far as animals are concerned, in our view, “life” means something more than mere survival or existence or instrumental value for human-beings, but to lead a life with some intrinsic worth, honour and dignity.”

People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) v. Union of India and others is yet another landmark judgment wherein the court has held that “The manner in which a society treats living beings is reflective, in a fundamental sense, of its culture, compassion and development. Protecting the welfare of animals is a stated constitutional goal embodied in Article 51A (g) and is a matter of legislative policy under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. No authority can turn a blind eye to the welfare for animals for the specious reason that the mute do not protest.”

Even after the consistent efforts of the courts to protect the dignity of animals, the ground reality is a far cry from what the papers suggest. Only if these creatures could speak for themselves, would we have been less Cavalier towards them? The day to day atrocities faced by the feeders of stray animals due to the lack of compassion and civility amongst the proportions is yet another crucial topic of discussion. The Delhi High Court recognizing the agony of the feeders, in 2011 passed an order directing the police to provide protection to dogs and dog feeders. The order further contained that anyone who restricts, prohibits or causes inconvenience to a person who feeds a street dog, or removes, dislocates, kills a dog commits a punishable offense. Apart from the ones actively taking part, be it for the welfare or the worsening of creatures, there exist another category of people who often go unnoticed. These are the people behind the cameras which record such onslaughts and then make them go viral instead of intervening and standing up against the injustice. However, they cannot be the sole bearers of the blame because more than often, the voices against such cruelties are shunned down with the help of several forces, be it physical, social or political. The lack of aid from the authorities and handling of such cases with little delicacy adds up to the misery caused.

In order to deliver justice in its true sense to our furry friends, it indeed is important for the Indian legislature to make stringent laws governing their rights and stricter punishments for its infringement as compared to the mockery it is in the present day, particularly the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. It’s been over 10 years since the Supreme Court gave an order for states to set up an Animal Welfare Board, states across India are still either yet to frame a State Animal Welfare Board or, were shaped, yet to help its working with staff and spending accessibility. The alarming rate at which the Animal-Human conflict has risen in the past few years has forced countries across the world to take steps towards harmonizing the relationship between nature and the mankind. The nations have gone on to set up Animal Welfare Courts, recognizing the animals as subjects and not mere objects of the play. The organizations working at the international level have been playing a crucial role in providing assistance in improving the overall welfare of the animals across the globe. But what is required further is augmenting the ground realities in relation to the well-being of these animals. India is a diverse country not just in its culture but also in its bio-diversity and subsequently, it is up and coming that such changes be made immediately for the betterment of the society.


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