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Power of the PIL II: Uttarakhand HC declares entire animal kingdom as legal person

Power of the PIL II: Uttarakhand HC declares entire animal kingdom as legal person

Aditya AK

More than a year after it declared the rivers Ganga and Yamuna and all the flora and fauna surrounding them as legal persons, the Uttarakhand High Court has extended the same status to the entire animal kingdom.

The Bench of Justices Rajiv Sharma and Lok Pal Singh passed a slew of directions calling for the prevention of cruelty to animals in the state of Uttarakhand.

The Court was hearing a PIL filed by Narayan Dutt Bhatt seeking directions to restrict the movement of horse carts/tongas from Nepal to India and vice-versa through Banbasa, Uttarakhand. The petitioner sought provisions for vaccination and medical checkup of the horses for suspected infections before entering into the Indian territory from Nepal, and for regulating the traffic on the border areas.

It was further argued by the petitioner that the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and rules frame thereunder, the Prevention and Control of Infectious and Contagious Diseases in Animals Act, 2009, and the Transport of Animals Rules, 1978 were not being implemented properly.

In larger public interest, the Court saw it fit to enlarge the scope of the petition, in order to ensure prevention of animal cruelty.

Before issuing as many as thirty directions for the welfare of pack animals in the state, the Bench noted,

“…juristic person, like any other natural person is in law also conferred with rights and obligations and is dealt with in accordance with law…This may be any entity, living inanimate, objects or things. It may be a religious institution or any such useful unit which may impel the Courts to recognise it.

…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 this observation, the Court held,

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

Among others, the Court also passed the following directions:

  • Nagar Panchayat, Banbasa is directed to regulate the plying of horse carts/tongas from Banbasa to Nepal by issuing licenses to the owners by charging reasonable fee within one month from today.
  • The State Government is directed to ensure the medical examination of all the animals including horses entering from Nepal to India as well as horses
  • A Committee to undertake the research/study to find out whether the maximum weight prescribed under Rules 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Draught and Pack Animals Rules, 1965 is reasonable or not
  • The State Government is directed to ensure that throughout the State of Uttarakhand, that no person in charge of any vehicle drawn by any animal allows more than four persons, excluding the driver and children below 6 years of age to ride the vehicle.
  • 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 Uttarakhand
  • Owners of tongas, bullock carts 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.
  • State government to provide shelter of suitable size to horses, bullocks and camels driving vehicles.
  • State Government is directed to enforce the provisions of the Prevention and Control of Infectious and Contagious Diseases in Animals Act, 2009
  • State Government is directed to appoint infirmaries for the treatment and care of animals in respect of which offences have been committed.

The petitioner was represented by Advocate Piyush Garg.

Read the judgment: