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People Rights Vs Animal Welfare

  • 26 Oct 2022
  • 8 min read

For Prelims: DPSP, Fundamental Duties, Article 48 A

For Mains: Balancing People Rights Vs Animal Welfare

Why in News?

In view of rising cases of stray dogs menace, the Supreme Court of India said that a balance has to be maintained between the safety of people and animal rights.

  • The court also suggested that people who feed stray dogs could be made responsible for vaccinating them and bearing costs if somebody is attacked by the animal.

What is the Need to maintain a Balance between People Rights and Animal Welfare?

  • To Address the Fundamental Issue:
    • This issue raises even more a fundamental issue regarding rights of wild animals within the society dominated by human beings in general and within the framework of the Constitution of India in particular.
  • Recognition in Hindu Texts:
    • Ancient Hindu texts have recognized the rights of animals, birds and every living creature and regarded every living being as having emerged from the same divine power as humans, thereby deserving due respect, love and affection.
    • India has a culture that promotes tolerance and respect for all life forms. Hindus regard cows as their sacred animal.
  • Punishing Animals is Wrong:
    • During ancient times some civilizations punished animals for wrongs committed by them. But with time, the argument relating to Moral agency evolved and it was realized that punishing animals was wrong, since they lacked the rationality to distinguish right from wrong and thus punishment would serve no use.
    • Thus, laws evolved and animals (like minors and persons of unsound mind) were held to be bearer of interests that needed to be safeguarded by the law sans any obligation to perform any corresponding duties.
    • The present legal regime penalizes pet owners for any damage resulting from the negligent handling of their pet.

What are the Related Judgements?

  • Animal Welfare Board of India v. Nagaraja (2014):
    • In this case, while striking down the practice of Jallikattu (bull-wrestling) and bullock cart racing in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, respectively, the Supreme Court had ruled that the right to dignity and fair treatment as enshrined in and arising out of Article 21 of India’s Constitution is not confined to human beings alone, but animals as well.
  • Other Judgements:
    • In July 2018 the Uttarakhand High Court and in June 2019, Judge Rajiv Sharma of the Punjab and Haryana High Court observed that animals have a distinct legal persona with corresponding rights, duties, and liabilities of a living person and subsequently declared all the citizens throughout their to be persons in loco parentis as the human face for the welfare/protection of animals.
    • All citizens of Uttarakhand and Haryana were declared to have legal responsibilities and functions similar to those of a parent vis-à-vis minor children for the welfare and protection of animals within their respective States.

What is the Constitutional Protection for Animal Rights?

  • According to the Indian Constitution, it is everyone’s responsibility to care for and preserve the country’s natural resources, such as its forests, lakes, rivers, and animals.
  • Article 48 A states that the State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.
  • Article 51A(g) states it to be a duty of every citizen of India “to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.”
  • Further, the State and Concurrent List have been assigned the following items about animal rights.
  • The States are given the authority to “preserve, maintain and improve stock and prevent animal diseases and enforce veterinary training and practice,” according to State List Item 14.
  • The Concurrent List contains legislation that both the Centre and the States may pass
    • “Prevention of animal cruelty,” which is mentioned in item 17.
    • “Protection of wild animals and birds” which is mentioned as item 17B.

What are the Important Laws in India for the Protection of Animals?

  • Indian Penal Code (IPC):
    • The Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860 is the official criminal code of India which covers all substantive aspects of criminal law.
    • Section 428 and 429 of the IPC provides for punishment of all acts of cruelty such as killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless of animals.
  • The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960:
    • The objective of the Act is to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals and to amend the laws relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals.
    • The Act defines "animal" as any living creature other than a human being.
  • Wildlife Protection Act 1972:
    • The act aims to safeguard all plants and animal species in the country to ensure environmental and ecological security.
    • The Act prohibits the hunting of endangered animals while providing for the establishment of wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, and zoos.

Way Forward

  • Our legislative provisions and judicial pronouncements make an effective case for animal rights, but no rights can be absolute. Like human rights, regulation of animal rights is a must.
  • The need of the hour is to strike a balance between safeguarding the interests of animals without compromising on the safety or well-being of humans. Animal abuse has to stop.
  • Humans need to shed their condescending approach of patronizing other species.
  • Mere intellectual superiority of humankind cannot be allowed to supersede living rights of another species. Co-existence of all life forms is absolutely essential to prevent an imbalance of our eco-system.

Source: Livemint

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