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Animal Welfare Laws in India: Through the Constitutional Spectrum

In September 2017 in Mumbai, Dabbu, a 3 year old Dog was passing through the road when a person named Khan, disturbed by the fact that the dog was alive started beating it with an iron rod breaking the skull of the poor dog. After hours of pain and anguish the dog recovered at a nearby hospital from the injury.

In the last couple of months many instances of cruelty against animals have surfaced, including a pregnant Elephant killed in Wayanad, Kerala, allegedly by a pineapple filled with explosives.

‘The greatness of a nation can be measured by the way it treats its helpless animals’, from the above instances we can see that our nation is not that great in the eyes of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation.

The concept of Animal Welfare of which Mahatma Gandhi was an idealist is the concept of advocating for better living conditions for animals, an animal is in a state of well being when the animal is safe, healthy and not suffering from any discomfort such as pain, thirst, or hunger.

Animal welfare is gaining more and more importance with regard to issues such as climate change, with intensive dairy farming contributing to more than 3 percent of the global carbon emissions in which cows are systematically bred inside crowded spaces and with minimum to nil regard for their safety or mental health, intensive cattle rearing has produced a population of 1 billion cattle in the world right now. In terms of numbers it may be the most successful animal in the world next to humans, but in terms of welfare it is the most subjugated animal in the world.

Man v. Forest

In case of wildlife, the world is witnessing one of the largest extinction events in the history of the planet where biodiversity is steeply decreasing in all parts of the world and scientists estimate that in the period of 50 years nearly 50 percent of the endangered species on earth will be wiped out due to poaching and extensive deforestation, the incident at Wayanad was an alarming episode of of man versus forest, where forest lands are being converted into agricultural land at very high rates.

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In order to control this alarming cruelty against animals laws have been enacted by nations prohibiting acts of cruelty such as poaching, harming animals, and promoting the well being of domestic animals but these are rendered ineffective as can be seen from the factual instances.

Constitutional Aspects of Animal Welfare:

Article 21 of the Constitution Of India provides for the Right to Life, which protects the life and personal liberty of a person and deprivation of such rights to be only allowed by a procedure established by law which in the context of animal welfare, animal rights were brought under the ambit of Article 21 in Jallikattu case[1], in which the traditional sport of Jallikattu was held to be violative of the right to life enshrined in the constitution. In this case Supreme court observed that Right to Life provides protection to the life of Animals on the basis of interpretation of the word life to include all life including animal life, which are necessary for human life.

In the case the Supreme Court also held Article 51A(g) of the Constitution of India as the Magna Carta of animal rights.

Article 51A(g) of the constitution provides for the fundamental duty of Indian citizens to protect the natural environment and Animal life.

The Directive Principles of State Policy namely articles 48 and 48A of the constitution puts duty on the state to prohibit the slaughter of cows and other draught cattle and to organize Animal Husbandry on scientific lines. This Provision is the direct result of the Ahimsa policy of Mahatma Gandhi being honoured in the Constitution.This policy was challenged from execution in a case[2] on the basis of the prohibition of cow slaughter being violative of fundamental right to freedom of religion of a religious community. The Supreme Court held that no right to religion was violated and upheld provisions of Article 48. This position was supported in another case where The Supreme court ruled that “ it was evident from the combined reading of Articles 48 and 51A(g) of the Constitution that citizens must show compassion to the animal kingdom and animals have their own fundamental rights”

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This would serve as a precedent for any cases of cruelty against animals in India in its old age when it could not be milked anymore.

For the citizens of India constitutional remedy by way of writ of Habeas Corpus is one of the last resorts to the protection of Right to Life of persons, with the recognition of Right to Life for animals the effective method of Habeas Corpus should be allowed for animals in India too. But such a policy has not been warmly welcomed in India as in a recent case[3] The Chief Justice Of India was not satisfied by the operability of Habeas corpus on an animal, in the case of the Elephant Laxmi ,who was taken away by authorities without justification.

The writ of Habeas Corpus has been applied in the case of animals in the US for the recovery and rehabilitation of Elephant in a Zoo which was in grevious conditions[4].By implementing such fast action measures in India we can put an end to the inhumane treatment of animals in Zoos, Circuses and other private possession.

Statutory protection of animals in India:

To curb the cruelty of animals in India, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 were enacted. Section 11(1)(h) provides for punishment for neglecting a domestic animal denying sufficient amenities for life such as food, water etc., it is punishable by imprisonment for 3 months or fine or both, this type of meagre punishment for cruelty on animals is not effective as it does not serve as a deterrent to people from doing such heinous acts, The Animal welfare Act of 2006 puts duty on the owner of an animal to meet with the essential needs of an animal, but a duty is only as good as the punishment for violation of such duty, as the Act only prescribes meagre fine for any violation by the owner in the range of Rs.150 to Rs.500.

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Conclusion

It is high time a law similar to the effective ones such as in the United Kingdom which prescribes a punishment of 51 week imprisonment and fine of upto 20000 Euros for cruelty against animals which is consistent with all its common law requirements.In Germany, the state takes full responsibility of its animal population and any offence against them will be treated with same magnitude as that for offence against its citizens. India too can adopt such stringent measures for the protection of its animal population if the right policies are supported by the people of India.


[1] Animal Welfare Board of India v. A.Nagaraja & Others,Civil appeal no. 5387  of 2014

[2] Abdul Hakim Qureshi v. State of Bihar , 1958 AIR 731

[3] Saddam v. Union of India & Others, W.P.(C.R.L.) 156/2020

[4]  THE NONHUMAN RIGHTS PROJECT, INC v. JAMES J. BREHENY, 2018 WL 2107087.


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

Anandan R. S., Animal Welfare Laws in India: Through the Constitutional Spectrum, Ex Gratia Law Journal, (September 26, 2020), https://exgratialawjournal.in/blawg/environmental-law/animal-welfare-laws-in-india-through-the-constitutional-spectrum-by-anandan-r-s/.

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Author

Anandan R. S.
Student - Goverenment Law College , Trivandrum