Around sixty years after its enactment, India’s antiquated animal cruelty law may finally get some teeth.
The Centre’s Animal Husbandry department has suggested adding to the 1960 legislation a stringent new section that addresses the killing of animals and “gruesome cruelty” towards them. This section calls for imprisonment of up to five years and steep penalties that may go up to Rs 75,000.
The department has also proposed amending the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to hike the penalty for first-time offenders from the paltry “minimum of Rs 10 to maximum of Rs 50” to “not less than Rs 750 extended up to Rs 3,750 per animal”.
The Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying set the ball rolling for the amendment of the legislation with Joint Commissioner (AH) Dr S K Dutta inviting suggestions from stakeholders at a webinar. The webinar, held Thursday, was attended by more than 350 people including political leaders, chief veterinary officers, animal welfare activists and rescue organisations.
In its presentation, the department said the new penalty for first-time offences had been calculated as per the inflation rate. There were mixed reactions to this, however, with some seeking a higher penalty between Rs 1,000 and Rs 5,000 as a deterrent.
Its proposed new section, meanwhile, has the following provisions—
11 (A): Gruesome cruelty or life-threatening cruelty against animals, for which the penalty is Rs 50,000 per animal or the cost of the animal as determined by a jurisdictional veterinarian. This carries imprisonment of one year which may extend to three years or both.
11 (B): Killing of an animal for which the penalty is Rs 75,000 per animal or three times the cost of the animal as determined by the jurisdictional veterinarian, whichever is more, with imprisonment of three years which may extend to five years or both.
11 (C): Exceptions (exemption to section 11 (B) killing of an animal): i) accident ii) in defence of self or property (iii) by an act of god or war (iv) any other unforeseen circumstance outside the control of any person in general.
Many stakeholders said proposed Section 11 (C) was ambiguous and could be used to create loopholes that an accused might slip through in a cruelty case.
Under Section 12—which deals with the practice of doom dev (the process of blowing air into a cow’s vagina to induce production of more milk) or the injection of any substance to improve lactation—the draft proposes Rs 75,000 as the penalty with imprisonment of three years which may be extended to five. The current penalty is Rs 1,000, two years in prison or both.
It also seeks to increase the limitation of prosecution under the PCA Act from three months to two years, as well as a new chapter for the formation of state animal welfare boards.
The stakeholders have been asked to email their suggestions latest by April 25 to [email protected]
Those who attended the session included Chairman of Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) Dr Chinny Krishna, MP from Kendrapara, Odisha, Anubhav Mohanty, MLA from Jayanagar, Bangalore, Sowmya Reddy, animal rights advocate Gauri Maulekhi, animal welfare advocate Alokparna Sengupta and many others.
‘MAKE SECTIONS COGNIZABLE’
Among the most common suggestions from the stakeholders was to make the sections for animal cruelty cognizable, as well as higher penalty and quantum of sentence. Some also demanded provisions to ensure police action according to law, stating that in many cases, police refuse to register FIRs. Many also brought up the issue of speciesism, stating that all animals must have the same rights, including cows and chickens. The need for a ‘dog bite protocol’ was also brought up, as well as protection for animal feeders. Some stakeholders also emphasised the importance of incorporating feedback from farmers, who use animals in traditional practices.
Dr Dutta said that the feedback received would be mulled over by the department, adding that this is not the final proposal, but one that will be passed on by the department to the government, and the final decision will be taken by Parliament.