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"Well-recognised right for animals also", Kerala HC steps in to help vegetarian cat-owner buy cat food during Coronavirus Lockdown

The Court also remarked in a lighter vein, "while we are happy to have come to the aid of the felines, in this case, we are also certain that our directions will help avert a 'CATastrophe' in the petitioner’s home."

Meera Emmanuel

The Kerala High Court on Monday came to the aid of a litigant who sought the Court's intervention after the police denied his online application for permission to buy cat food during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Appearing as party-in-person, N Prakash told the Bench of Justices AK Jayasankaran Nambiar and Shaji P Chaly through video-conference today that his three cats were not taking any of the vegetarian food that he prepares at home, including rice and sambhar.

The petitioner informed the Court that he was a vegetarian Brahmin, and therefore he had been buying "Me-o Persian" food for his three cats, from a nearby pet store. However, when the said pet store stopped selling this food, he was informed that the Cochin Pet Hospital in Kadavanthra stocks the cat food he required.

In view of the denial of special permission by the police, the petitioner had prayed that either the Court grant him permission to travel for buying the cat food, or alternatively that the police drop off the food at his home.

In response, Additional Advocate General Ranjith Thampan questioned the haste with which the petitioner approached the Court, since the government has already recognised that pet food is an essential commodity that can be obtained during the lockdown. Thampan added that a self-declaration would have been sufficient for the petitioner to buy the cat food.

The Court, however, noted that the petitioner lived some distance away from the pet hospital in Kadavanthra. Therefore, it was noted that he may run into difficulties, if stopped by the police and if he only had a self-declaration form. The Bench observed that when travel is required to a distant place, the police usually insist on a special pass.

The Court orally observed today that there are well-recognised rights for animals also during this time.

In the order passed subsequently, the Bench also made note to record that, "Over the last seven decades of working our democratic Constitution, we have focused, primarily, on the rights available to our citizens. We have conveniently forgotten that the human species is not alone on this planet and that there are other claimants to the bounty that nature has to offer."

Referrring to fundamental duties under Article 51 A (g), in Part IVA of the Indian Constitution, the judgment authored by Justice Nambiar states,

"To inculcate a healthy respect for other living creatures, and to recognise the rights enuring in them, is thus no longer a matter of choice for our citizenry, but a solemn duty under the Constitution that governs us all.
Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar

The concurring opinion by Justice Chaly notes that,

"... the said fundamental duty obligates every citizen to have compassion for living creatures and more so on a person rearing a pet."

Justice Shaji P Chaly

The Bench eventually opined that a High Court order in the petitioner's favour, along with a self-declaration, would suffice in aiding him to travel to the pet hospital for buying the food. After making sure that the petitioner has enough food for the day, the Court proceeded to order as follows,

"...we allow the writ petition by directing the respondents to permit the petitioner to travel to Kadavanthara, Kochi, to procure the said item of cat food, on his producing a self-declaration stating the purpose of his travel, along with a copy of this judgment."
Kerala High Court

The Court added, "Before parting with this case, we might observe in a lighter vein, that while we are happy to have come to the aid of the felines in this case, we are also certain that our directions will help avert a 'CATastrophe' in the petitioner’s home."

[Read the Order]

N.Prakash v. State of Kerala and ors - April 6 order.pdf
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