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Punjab and Haryana High Court declares Animals as Legal Persons [Read Judgment]

Punjab and Haryana High Court declares Animals as Legal Persons [Read Judgment]

Bar & Bench

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that all animals are legal persons entitled to legal rights like human beings. Echoing an order passed by him while sitting at the Uttarakhand High Court last year, Justice Rajiv Sharma’s order states,

The entire animal kingdom, including avian and aquatic, are declared legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person. All citizens throughout Haryana are hereby declared persons in loco parentis (responsible for a child in parents’ absence) as the human face for the welfare/protection of animals.”

The order was passed in a case where the Court was informed that 29 cows were packed in a cruel manner while being transported from Uttar Pradesh to Haryana. In response, Justice Sharma’s order emphasises that animals cannot be reduced to mere property. Striking an empathetic note, Justice Sharma appeals in his order,

We have to show compassion towards all living creatures. Animals may be mute but we as a society have to speak on their behalf. No pain or agony should be caused to the animals. Cruelty to animals also causes psychological pain to them. In Hindu Mythology, every animal is associated with god. Animals breathe like us and have emotions. The animals require food, water, shelter, normal behavior, medical care, self-determination.”

In view of these observations, the High Court has issued 29 animal-welfare oriented directions.

This includes a ban in using animals to pull vehicles in extreme weather, limits on loads and the number of people that animals are made to carry, limits on the distances that an animal is made to walk at a stretch, instructions on how to tether an animal to the vehicle it is made to pull and a ban on the use of  spike sticks, harness  and other sharp instruments to avoid injuring the animal.

The Court has also directed that animal-driven carts are given the right of way. Further, Justice Sharma has ordered that the use of animals for such purposes should be limited to nine hours a day, and not more than five hours without a break. The animal should also be given water at appropriate intervals.

This apart, Justice Sharma has directed that fluorescent reflectors be attached to animal-driven carriages and the animal to ensure that they are visible at night.  Compulsory shelter of suitable size is to be provided for horses, bullocks and stray cattle by municipal bodies. Among other notable directions, veterinary doctors have been directed  to treat stray animals brought to them. The state authorities have also been directed to make sufficient housing and food provisions available for stray animals.

Justice Sharma signs off his 104 page order by observing,

“Live and let live.”

The list of directions issued by Justice Sharma in this order are as follows:

  • The State Government is directed to ensure that the draught animals do not carry loads exceeding prescribed limits while driving vehicles.
  • The State Government is directed to ensure that no animal shall carry weight or load in excess of the weights prescribed. 
  • The weight should be halved if the route travelled involves an ascent exceeding the limit prescribed by the Court. 
  • No more than four persons, excluding the driver and children below 6 years of age, are allowed to ride an animal drawn vehicle. 
  • No person is permitted to keep or cause to be kept in harness any animal used for the purpose of drawing vehicles where the temperature exceeds 37°C (99°F) during the period between 11 am and 4 pm. in summers and when the temperature is below 5°C between 5 am to 7 am and between 10 pm to 5 am in winter season.
  • The use of spike stick or bit, harness or yoke with spikes, knobs or projections or any other sharp tackle or equipment is banned throughout the State of Haryana to avoid bruises, swelling, abrasions or severe pain to the animal. 
  • All the Municipal Bodies shall issue certificates of unladen weight of vehicles to avoid cruelty to animals.
  • The owners of bullock carts, camel carts, horse carts, tonga are ordered to put fluorescent reflectors in the front and back of the carts. The animals shall also be covered with stripes of fluorescent reflectors for their identification at night. 
  • All the Municipal Bodies throughout the State of Haryana are directed to provide shelter of suitable size to horses, bullocks and camels driving vehicles. 
  • Appropriate rules of the Transport of Animals Rules, 1978 and the Haryana Motor Vehicles rules, 1993 are to be complied with while transporting animals. These rules concern the making the vehicle suitable for transporting the animal through the provision of padding, anti-slipping material etc. It also entails limiting the number of cattle transported per vehicle (no more than six cattle), restrictions on overcrowding the vehicle with other merchandise, ensuring that there is an attendant with the animal being transported, ensuring that the cattle faces the engine to prevent their being frightened or injured, providing first aid etc. 
  • The State Government is directed to appoint Veterinary Officers as per Section 3 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious and Contagious Diseases in Animals Act, 2009 (2009 Act) and also to declare controlled areas and free areas to prevent, control or eradicate any scheduled disease by notification.
  • The State Government is directed to enforce the provisions of the 2009 Act to prevent the animals from infectious and contagious diseases in letter and spirit.
  • No animal including cows, buffaloes, calves, horses, ponies, mules, donkeys, foal, goats and sheep, kids and lambs, pigs, piglets shall be transported on foot beyond the period specified in Rule 12 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Transport of Animals on Foot) Rules, 2001 (2001 Rules)
  • The animals shall be transported on foot only when the temperature is between 12°C to 30°C. The animals should be provided water every two hours and food in every four hours. The animals should not be made to walk more than 2 hours at a stretch.
  • The State Government is directed to ensure that every animal to be transported should be healthy and in good condition. A certificate of veterinary doctor in respect of each animal to be transported is made compulsory as per the 2001 Rules.
  • No new born animal of which the navel has not completely healed, diseased, blind, emaciated, lame, fatigued, or having given birth during the preceding seventy-two hours or likely to give birth during transport are ordered not to be transported on foot. There should be watering arrangements enroute during transport of such animals on foot. There should be sufficient feed and fodder arrangements during transportation of animals.
  • The animals while transported shall not be tied by its nose, or legs or any other part of the body except by its neck. The animals, if at all, are to be tied during transportation shall be tied with rope covered with suitable cushioning.
  • The State Government is directed to ensure that no animals shall be transported on foot on hard cement, bitumen- coated or metalled roads, steep gradients or hilly and rocky terrain, irrespective of weather conditions (summers and winter), as per Rule 30 of the 2001 Rules
  • The State Government is also directed to constitute societies for prevention of cruelty to animals in each district
  • The cost of transporting the animal to an infirmary or pinjrapole, shall be paid by the owner of the animal.
  • The Director Animal Husbandry to the State of Haryana is directed to ensure proper treatment of stray cattle and animals, throughout the State of Haryana by the duly qualified doctors. The State of Haryana has already established infirmaries at 45 places.
  • All the Veterinary doctors throughout the State of Haryana are directed to treat the stray animals brought to them by the citizens, in case, it is not possible to bring the sick animal/cattle to the Veterinary doctor, he/she shall personally visit and attend the stray cattle/animal without delay.
  • All the Municipal bodies / Panchayati Raj Insitutions, throughout the State of Haryana are directed to make sufficient provisions for housing the stray cattle and to provide them food/fodder and water.
  • Since the carts driven by animals have no mechanical devices, they should be given the “Right of Way”. All the Police Officers throughout the State of Haryana are directed to ensure compliance of this direction to avoid inconvenience to the animals.
  • The State of Haryana is directed to ensure that no person shall use or cause to be used any animal for drawing any vehicle or carrying any load for more than nine hours in a day in the aggregate; for more than five hours continuously without a break or rest for the animal. No animal can be used to draw vehicles in any area where the temperature exceeds 370 C (990F) during the period between 12 noon and 3 pm, as per Rule 6 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Draught and Pack Animals Rules, 1965.
  • The State of Haryana is directed to enforce the provisions of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Aquarium and Fish Tank Animals Shop) Rules, 2017; Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Dog Breeding and Marketing) Rules 2017; and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Pet Shop) Rules, 2018, in letter and spirit.

Justice Sharma was part of the Uttarakhand High Court Bench that passed a similar ruling in July last year, whereby all citizens in Uttarakhand were declared guardians responsible for the protection of animals. In August the same year, he also sat on the Bench that invoked the parens patriae doctrine to assume the role of legal guardian for cows and other cattle in Uttarakhand.

In 2017 Justice Sharma was part of the Bench that declared rivers Ganga and Yamuna living persons. Later, the same Bench extended this protection to the flora and fauna surrounding the two rivers as well.

Read the order: