In Animal Welfare Board Of India vs A. Nagaraja & Ors (2014), while deciding the legality of jallikattu in Tamilnadu and bull cart race in Maharashtra, the supreme court also discussed the rights of animals under statutes, constitution and international conventions.

So, as per the observation of the honourable court, following provisions confers rights to animals and duties to humans-

  • Section 3 and 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals act, 1960;
  • Article 51A(g)(h) of Indian constitution;
  • Article 21 of the constitution.

These provisions are hereby discussed as follows-

Prevention of cruelty to animals act, 1960

The PCA Act was enacted even before the introduction of Part IV-A dealing with the fundamental duties, by the Constitutional 47th Amendment Act, 1956. Earlier, the then British in India enacted the Prevention of Cruelty Act, 1890 for the human beings to reap maximum gains by exploiting them with coercive methods with an idea that the very existence of the animals is for the benefit of the human beings.

During the course of administering the above mentioned Act, many deficiencies were noticed by the Government of India and a Committee was constituted to investigate and suggest measures for prevention of cruelty to animals.

Following that, a Bill was introduced in the Parliament and, ultimately, the PCA Act, 1960 was enacted so as to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals and to amend the law relating to prevention of cruelty to animals.

Rights of animals under PCA Act

The PCA Act, as already indicated, was enacted to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain, suffering or cruelty on animals. Section 3 of the Act deals with duties of persons having charge of animals, which is mandatory in nature and hence confer corresponding rights on animals.

Rights so conferred on animals are thus the antithesis of a duty and if those rights are violated, law will enforce those rights with legal sanction.

Section 3 is extracted hereunder for an easy reference:

3. Duties of persons having charge of animals. – It shall be the duty of every person having the care or charge of any animal to take all reasonable measures to ensure the well-being of such animal and to prevent the infliction upon such animal of unnecessary pain or suffering.

Section 3 of the Act has got two limbs, which are as follows:

  1. Duty cast on persons-in-charge or care to take all reasonable measures to ensure the well-being of the animal;
  2. Duty to take reasonable measures to prevent the infliction upon such animal of unnecessary pain and suffering.

Both the above limbs have to be cumulatively satisfied. Primary duty on the persons-in-charge or care of the animal is to ensure the well-being of the animal. Well-being means state of being comfortable, healthy or happy. Forcing the Bull and keeping the same in the waiting area for a number of hours and subjecting it to scorching sun, is not for the well-being of the animal.

The second limb of Section 3 casts a duty on the person in-charge or care of animal to prevent the infliction upon an animal, unnecessary pain or suffering.

Considerations, which are relevant to determine whether the suffering is unnecessary, include whether the suffering could have reasonably been avoided or reduced, whether the conduct which caused the suffering was in compliance with any relevant enactment. Another aspect to be examined is whether the conduct causing the suffering was for a legitimate purpose, such as, the purpose for benefiting the animals or the purpose of protecting a person, property or another animal etc.

Cruelty to animals: Rights of animals against cruelty

Section 11 generally deals with the cruelty to animals. Section 11 is a beneficial provision enacted for the welfare and protection of the animals and it is penal in nature. Being penal in nature, it confers rights on the animals and obligations on all persons, including those who are in-charge or care of the animals to look after their well-being and welfare.

The relevant portion of Section 11 reads as follows:

―(1) If any person―

  1. beats, kicks, over-rides, over-drives, over-loads, tortures or otherwise treats any animal so as to subject it to unnecessary pain or suffering or causes or, being the owner permits, any animal to be so treated; or
  2. employs in any work or labour or for any purpose any animal which, by reason of its age or any disease, infirmity, wound, sore or other cause, is unfit to be so employed or, being the owner, permits any such unfit animal to be so employed;
  3. wilfully and unreasonably administers any injurious drug or injurious substance to any animal or wilfully and unreasonably causes or attempts to cause any such drug or substance to be taken by any animal; or
  4. conveys or carries, whether in or upon any vehicle or not, any animal in such a manner or position as to subject it to unnecessary pain or suffering; or
  5. keeps or confines any animal in any cage or other receptacle which does not measure sufficiently in height, length and breadth to permit the animal a reasonable opportunity for movement; or
  6. keeps for an unreasonable time any animal chained or tethered upon an unreasonably short or unreasonably heavy chain or cord; or
  7. being the owner, neglects to exercise or cause to be exercised reasonably any dog habitually chained up or kept in close confinement; or
  8. being the owner of any animal fails to provide such animal with sufficient food, drink or shelter; or
  9. without reasonable cause, abandons any animal in circumstances which render it likely that it will suffer pain by reason of starvation or thirst; or
  10. wilfully permits any animal, of which he is the owner, to go at large in any street while the animal is affected with contagious or infectious disease or, without reasonable excuse permits any diseased or disabled animal, of which he is the owner, to die in any street; or
  11. offers for sale or, without reasonable cause, has in his possession any animal which is suffering pain by reason of mutilation, starvation, thirst, overcrowding or other ill-treatment; or
  12. multilates any animal or kills any animal (including stray dogs) by using the method of strychnine injections in the heart or in any other unnecessarily cruel manner; or
  13. solely with a view to providing entertainment—
    • confines or causes to be confined any animal (including tying of an animal as a bait in a tiger or other sanctuary) so as to make it an object of prey for any other animal; or
    • incites any animal to fight or bait any other animal; or
  • organises, keeps, uses or acts in the management of, any place for animal fighting or for the purpose of baiting any animal or permits or offers any place to be so used or receives money for the admission of any other person to any place kept or used for any such purposes; or
  • promotes or takes part in any shooting match or competition wherein animals are released from captivity for the purpose of such shooting;

he shall be punishable, in the case of a first offence, with fine which shall not be less than ten rupees but which may extend to fifty rupees and in the case of a second or subsequent offence committed within three years of the previous offence, with fine which shall not be less than twenty-five rupees but which may extend to one hundred rupees or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or with both.

Doctrine of necessity: which things are not considered cruelty to animals?

Section 11(3) carves out exceptions in five categories of cases mentioned in Section 11(3)(a) to (e), which are as follows:

Nothing in this section shall apply to-

  • the dehorning of cattle, or the castration or branding or nose-roping of any animal, in the prescribed manner; or
  • the destruction of stray dogs in lethal chambers or by such other methods as may be prescribed; or
  • the extermination or destruction of any animal under the authority of any law for the time being in force; or
  • any matter dealt with in Chapter IV; or
  • the commission or omission of any act in the course of the destruction or the preparation for destruction of any animal as food for mankind unless such destruction or preparation was accompanied by the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering..

An animal might be regarded as suffering, if is in pain, distress, or acute or unduly prolonged discomfort. Consequently, to experience the suffering, the animal needs an awareness of its environment, the ability to develop moods that coordinate a behavioral response, and the capacity to change adverse situation or avoid them.[1]

Exceptions are incorporated based on the doctrine of necessity.

Clause (b) to Section 11(3) deals with the destruction of stray dogs, out of necessity, otherwise, it would be harmful to human beings.

Clause (d) to Section 11(3) deals with matters, incorporated out of necessity, which deals with the experimentation on animals, which is for the purpose of advancement by new discovery of physiological knowledge or of knowledge which would be useful for saving or for prolonging life or alleviating suffering or for combating any disease, whether of human beings, animals or plants, which is not prohibited and is lawful.

Clause (e) to Section 11(3) permits killing of animals as food for mankind, of course, without inflicting unnecessary pain or suffering, which clause is also incorporated out of necessity. Experimenting on animals and eating their flesh are stated to be two major forms of speciesism in our society.

By virtue of Section 28, killing of animals in a manner required by the religion of any community is not prohibited. Entertainment, exhibition or amusement do not fall under these exempted categories and cannot be claimed as a matter of right under the doctrine of necessity.

Rigths of animals under constitution

1.      ARTICLE 51A (g) (h)

Rights and freedoms guaranteed to the animals under Sections 3 and 11 have to be read along with Article 51A(g)(h) of the Constitution, which is the magna carta of animal rights.[2]

Our duty which is conferred by constitution, is right of the animals. Article 51A(g) of the Constitution casts fundamental duties on every citizen to have compassion for living creatures.

Parliament, by incorporating Article 51A(g), has again reiterated and re-emphasised the fundamental duties on human beings towards every living creature.

All living creatures have inherent dignity and a right to live peacefully and right to protect their well-being which encompasses protection from beating, kicking, over-driving, over-loading, tortures, pain and suffering etc.

2.      ARTICLE 21: right to life for animals

In the case, Animal Welfare Board of India vs A. Nagaraja & Ors, 2014 (Jallikattu case), the court recognized the right to life for animals.

As per the wording of the court, every species has a right to life and security, subject to the law of the land, which includes depriving its life, out of human necessity.

Article 21 of the Constitution, while safeguarding the rights of humans, protects life and the word ‘life’ has been given an expanded definition and any disturbance from the basic environment which includes all forms of life, including animal life, which are necessary for human life, fall within the meaning of Article 21 of the Constitution.

Conclusion: Duty of the court in the context of right of animals

PCA Act is a welfare legislation which has to be construed bearing in mind the purpose and object of the Act and the Directive Principles of State Policy. It is trite law that, in the matters of welfare legislation, the provisions of law should be liberally construed in favour of the weak and infirm. Court also should be vigilant to see that benefits conferred by such remedial and welfare legislation are not defeated by subtle devices.

Court has got the duty that, in every case, where ingenuity is expanded to avoid welfare legislations, to get behind the smoke-screen and discover the true state of affairs. Court can go behind the form and see the substance of the devise for which it has to pierce the veil and examine whether the guidelines or the regulations are framed so as to achieve some other purpose than the welfare of the animals.

Regulations or guidelines, whether statutory or otherwise, if they purport to dilute or defeat the welfare legislation and the constitutional principles, Court should not hesitate to strike them down so as to achieve the ultimate object and purpose of the welfare legislation. Court has also a duty under the doctrine of parents patriae to take care of the rights of animals, since they are unable to take care of themselves as against human beings. (Animal Welfare Board Of India vs A. Nagaraja & Ors (2014)7SCC547)

[1] Animal Welfare Board Of India vs A. Nagaraja & Ors (2014)7SCC547

[2] Animal Welfare Board Of India vs A. Nagaraja & Ors on 7 May, 2014


Animal Welfare Board Of India vs A. Nagaraja & Ors (2014) 7SCC547

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