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Animal Cruelty: Adequacy of Legislations


27th May, 2020 – Happily waving her trunk, a pregnant soul lumbered into the forests of Malappuram. Deceived by a pineapple, the elephant innocently thanked humanity, heedless of the crackers stuffed within. Soon after, as the cracker exploded in her mouth, fighting against the pain it caused, she managed to reach the river nearby hoping to get relieved. Yet, her hope was lost in vain and the mother elephant faced her tragic end in the silent valley of Kerala. This incident was yet another wake-up call to examine the adequacy and practicality of Indian legislations intended to prevent cruelty against animals.

Inadequacy & Impracticality Of Legislations In India:

The Constitution of India, through Article 51 A (g) casts a fundamental duty upon its citizens, to protect wildlife and to be compassionate towards all living creatures. The Apex Court reiterated this conception in the landmark judgment of Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja & Ors[1], where it stated that “All living creatures possess inherent dignity and are entrusted with the right to live a peaceful life.”[2]

This Constitutional protection given to animals is perhaps the grundnorm for creation of specific legislations to prevent animal cruelty. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 are crucial in this regard and must be read along with Sections 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code.

While Section 428 of the IPC punishes killing or maiming animals of the value of ten rupees, with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both, Section 429, criminalizes the act of killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless, any elephant, camel, horse, mule, buffalo, bull, cow or ox (of any value), or any other animal of the value of fifty rupees or more, with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both.

Though the provisions of IPC penalize animal cruelty, it failed to specify the fine amounts for specific type of cruelty, often resulting in imposing meager amounts which were unjustifiable. Therefore, The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 was enacted with the intention to cover up the lacunae existing in the IPC.

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The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (hereinafter ‘PCA’) is the first specific legislation enacted with the intention to prohibit all sorts of cruelty towards animals. It prohibits inflicting or causing, unnecessary pain or suffering to any animal. It also prohibits the owner from permitting the infliction of unnecessary pain upon his/her animal. This Act also makes it an offence to kick, beat, torture, mutilate, administer an injurious substance, or cruelly kill an animal. It was made illegal to over-work any animal and to work an unfit animal. Cruelly transporting, confining, chaining or tethering an animal would also constitute an offence under this Act.[3]

Moreover, the Act also casts a duty upon the owner to provide enough food, drink, shelter and adequate care to the animal he/she owns, failing which the owner shall be liable to punishment. Entertainment activities endangering animal lives were also prohibited.[4]

Yet, it is pertinent to note that, despite the restrictions propounded by it, the PCA does not seem to effectively achieve the legislative intent. Being the primary anti-cruelty legislation, the PCA is expected to be efficient in all aspects. However, its adequacy is proved to be insufficient through the following criticisms:

  • Meagre Penalty:

A majority speculation reveals that, PCA lacks proportionality between the penalty and offences.The proportionality doctrine, though not expressly codified, holds utmost importance in drafting any legislation. Being a component of administrative law, proportionality mandates two prerequisites in any penal action, i.e., fairness towards the offender and fairness towards the society.

The first equivalency of proportionality, regarding fairness towards the offender, is based on the principle that “Punishment imposed shall not be harsher than the crime itself”. So far as the PCA is concerned, the maximum punishment imposed is a sum of Fifty Rupees. This is far from being called harsh, in the present scenario. Therefore, the accused cannot claim the liability to be unfair.

Secondly, it is to be observed that the PCA does not effectively satisfy social fairness prescribed by the doctrine of proportionality. Criminal Jurisprudence considers any crime to affect the society as a whole. That being the case, the proportionality between the offence committed and punishment prescribed is determined on the basis of legislative intent with which the law is made. The legislative intent of PCA is to prevent unnecessary pain and suffering inflicted to animals. This intent cannot be effectively satisfied as long as the penalties imposed are proportional enough to the harm inflicted.

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Thirdly, the purpose of imposing fine under PCA for first offence is to ensure that it creates deterrent impact upon the perpetrators. Jeremy Bentham, the popular advocate of Utilitarian Theory, while propounding the idea of pain and pleasure, observed that, the pain caused through imposition of penal sanctions should hold more effect than the pleasure obtained through law breaking. This is perhaps his code for effective implementation of penal laws.

Analysing PCA in the light of above stated view, it can be concluded that, the monetary sanctions imposed for several offences by the PCA is inadequate and meagre. 

  • Non- Cognizability of offences:

It is pertinent to note that, except offences under Sections 11(1) (l), (n) and (o) and Section 12 of the Act, all other offences under PCA are non-cognizable. The Police officers are required to obtain a warrant from the magistrate concerned before arresting the accused.

This classification of most offences as non-cognizable creates additional barriers in taking immediate legal actions against the accused. Further, it obstructs the achievement of objectives and purposes of the Act. Moreover, non-cognizability of most offences under Section 11 of the Act, have been proved to be highly difficult for the animal activists to bring the accused before Justice.[5] 

  • Easy grant of Bail:

A majority of offences under the PCA is categorized as bailable. Moreover, simple penalties imposed for offences results in easier chances of obtaining bail, thereby failing the very purpose of bail procedure.

With the advancement of Criminal justice system, bail is considered as a remedy for only those crimes that does not hold much seriousness. This view is perhaps another evidence to prove the deterrence approach adopted by the Indian Judiciary.

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Yet it is saddening to note that, this factor makes legal administration to overlook the seriousness involved in harming animals. Moreover, this serves as another nail to the coffin that buries the aims and objectives of the PCA Act.


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

Mahatma Gandhi

Although a series of Animal Protection legislations have been passed in India, it does require practical implementation and adequacy in satisfying its objective. Apart from the insufficiency of laws, another major blockade in providing efficient animal rights is that, the concerned citizens and NGOs, though express strong concern about the cruelties, fail to emphasize the legal pathway to achieve the desired result.

Therefore, keeping in mind the importance of ecological balance and biodiversity, it is high time to move towards implementation of systematic and sympathetic legislations promoting animal welfare.         

[1] (2014) 7 SCC 547.

[2]State of Bihar v. Murad Ali Khan and Ors, 1988 SCC (4) 655. 

[3] Nair, N.R and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors, AIR 2000 Ker 340.

[4] Khed Taluka Chalak Malak Sangh and Ors. v. Smt. Gargi Gogoi and Ors, SLP (C) 4268 of 2013.

[5] Nadkarni, A., & Ghosh, A. (2017). Broadening the Scope of Liabilities for Cruelty against Animals: Gauging the Legal Adequacy of Penal Sanctions Imposed. NUJS L. Rev.10, 515.

Cite this article (The Bluebook 20th ed.)-

Muthu Srinithi R., Animal Cruelty: Adequacy of Legislations, Ex Gratia Law Journal, (September 29, 2020),

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Muthu Srinithi R.
Student - SASTRA Deemed to be University