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ULTIMATE GUIDE TO ANIMAL WELFARE LAWS IN INDIA

India is recognized with unique richness and diversity in vegetation and wildlife. India is home to about 8% of world’s biodiversity, the reason for this could be the physical as well as climatic conditions of the country which contributes to the sustenance of such diversity. India lies within Indomalayan realm and has about 7.6% of mammal, 6% of birds, 6.2% of reptilian, 14.7 % of amphibian species[1]

Unfortunately, self-serving and negligent actions of humans have adversely affected the wildlife in India. As defined by International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), WILDLIFE CRIMES refers to the acts which are done contrary to NATIONAL LAWS which are enacted for the protection and preservation of flora and fauna. These acts include the harming and exploitation of natural resources, the poaching or encroaching of animals, or the illegal transportation of endangered plant species etc.

In lieu of these conditions various steps were taken by the Government and Judiciary of India. The CONSTITUTION OF INDIA, 1960 which is the supreme law of the land considers it a fundamental duty of citizens to protect and safeguards all forms of life. Various Central and State legislations were enacted to protect the rights of these innocent and helpless animals like the WILDLIFE PROTECTION ACT, 1972 and the PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS ACT, 1960.


One can always ask the question as to why there was such a dire need of laws regarding the protection of rights of animals that it was necessary to incorporate such provisions in the Constitution. The answer to this question lies in the relationship that exists between humans and animals. Humans have always considered themselves to be the higher power which certainly have a higher status than all other creatures of the land, which ultimately gives them the authority to overpower or dominate such other creatures. Earlier animals were killed for basic survival but with changing times and increasing greed of mankind, animals were made to suffer for sport, were skinned for being displayed as achievement or for luxurious accessories like leather bags, shoes, dresses etc.

One of the primary goals that visionaries and legislators have incorporated in the preamble of the Constitution of India is EQUALITY OF STATUS AND OF OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL CITIZENS OF INDIA, all the animal rights activist are not demanding equality of status for animals but equality of opportunities…..opportunity to live. Animals too have a right against exploitation and a right to live. Articles 21, 48, 48A2 and 51A(g) (PART – 4A)[3] of the Constitution incorporates provisions for the rights provided for animals and certain duties imposed on the citizens to not only protect but to improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to show compassion to all living creatures.

Article 48 imposes a duty on the state to organize agriculture and animal husbandry and to prohibit the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattles.

In NR Nair v. Union of India[4], a crucial notification made by the ministry of Environment and Forests was challenged by the appellants, which stated that bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers, and lions shall not be exhibited or trained as performing animals and this notification was upheld by the Kerala High Court. Hence this question was put before the Apex Court and the Supreme Court too upheld the notification. The petitioner had argued that This notification was an infringement to his right to carry on trade under Article 19(g) of the Constitution of India, but the SC stated that animals cannot be subjected to suffering and they too have a right to movement.


In Animal Welfare Board of India v. A.Nagaraja The constitutionality of a traditional sport Jallikattu was brought under the purview of SC, and in turn the Court held the sport unreasonable and ordered the Central Government to amend Prevention of cruelty to animals act, 1960 and add “bull” under the ambit of the Act. It also stated that Animals too have a right to protection and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, they cannot be subjected to unnecessary pain and suffering for entertainment.

In Karnail Singh & Others v State of Haryana[6], the facts of this case arose in 2004, where cows were transported for slaughter for meat which was illegal. The petitioners filed an appeal in the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, where the High Court in its remarkable judgment stated that animals have a legal entity and the rights of humans can extend to animals also. The High Court further stated that humans are bound by the duty to protect and ensure the welfare of animals, also their right to life and dignity are to be protected under the law.

Other than the Constitution, there are various legislations like the WILDLIFE PROTECTION ACT, 1972, that was enacted in order to protect and preserve the wildlife i.e. the plants and animal species of a habitat. Dangers of human activities like poaching, trafficking of animals for their skin and horns, killing of animals for entertainment, increasing urbanization, globalization and modernization has led to habitat loss. These activities have affected wildlife in such a way that now many animals like tiger, elephants, rhinoceros are put into the endangered list (are on the verge of extinction). Under section 39, the respective.


The act prohibits injury to any kind of wild animal and to trees. Section 51 of WILDLIFE PROTECTION ACT, 1972 provides for punishment to offenders. Even INDIAN PENAL CODE, 18607 provides punishment for killing, maiming cattle, poaching etc. of animals with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 5 years or with fine or both. Also section 377 of INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1860 lays down provision for unnatural offenses which includes voluntary carnal intercourse with animals also, these are punishable with imprisonment which may extend to 10 years and also liable to fine. According to Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organization and All Creatures Great and Small, from 2010 to 2020, 82 cases have been reported of sexual abuse of animals and these are invariably small figures in contrast to the actual cases[8].

A monitor lizard was gang raped by 4 men in Maharashtra in March, a cow was allegedly sexually abused by a man in Lucknow in April of 2022 and in October 2022, a 67 year old man raped neighbor’s dog ….these kinds of horrific acts have no ending. All these acts are covered by sec. 377 of INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1860.

Another noteworthy act to be implemented is the PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS ACT, 1960. This act was enacted with the view of preventing any kind of unnecessary pain or suffering that is inflicted on animals. This act enshrines the provision for the establishment of ANIMAL WELFARE BOARD in India, its Constitution, its functions etc. All acts of humans related to ‘cruelty’ to animals are covered under Sec. 11 of the PCA, 1960. Many MLA’s and MP’s have proposed over a period of time to amend this act and increase the penalties imposed for cruelty to animals, in 2021 the government tried to prepare a draft for the same and increase the penalties from Rs 50 to paying up to Rs 75,000 or three times the cost of the animal with jail term extending to 5 years or both.[9]


Unfortunately even after so many laws have been enacted for the protection of animal species still incidents of poaching, trafficking and killing of animals for sport are on rise. According to TRAFFIC REPORT in 2020 the poaching cases in India increased by 151% amid to covid lockdown. Why after so many efforts of the legislators in making laws to combat these activities, such crimes are on rise? According to the police officers and forest department, people who commit such crimes are not scared of punishment even if the punishment is imprisonment. Also the penalties imposed for the crime of torturing or even killing of an animal is as low as paying Rs 10. Recently a Jodhpur man, who by profession is a doctor was found dragging a dog by his car and he can actually get away by just paying Rs 10, while the dog suffers from multiple injuries.[10] Eventually with such low penalties the offenses against innocent and helpless creatures would not subside. There is not only immediate need for higher and stringent punishments but also effective application of the laws that provide such punishments. Sluggish trials of such offenses have added fuel to fire. Even if such cases reach the Court, the process of conviction takes too long.

Certain suggestions for combating this problem are:

1. Educating the masses through skits, flash mobs, open mic, poster competitions, Introduction of topics relating to animal welfare for students in schools and colleges etc. can help to create empathy in the minds and hearts of people and encourage them to take care of the natural environment.

2. In dire need for stricter rules and regulations with higher punishment’s to create a sense of fear in the minds of such miscreants.

3. Presenting your views and sharing your passion for the conservation of wildlife can actually help in changing views of people and encourage them towards taking appropriate steps for the same.

4. Volunteering in NGOs and organizations that work towards the betterment of wildlife and ultimately natural resources.


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1) INDIRA GANDHI CONSERVATION MONITORING CENTRE (IGCMC),NEW DELHI AND THE UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAMME (UNEP),WORLD CONSERVATION MONITORING CENTRE, CAMBRIDGE, UK.<

http://www.unep-wcmc.org/>

2) INS. BY THE CONSTITUTION ( FORTY-SECOND AMENDMENT) ACT, 1976, s.10 (w.e.f. 3-1-1977)

3) INS. BY THE CONSTITUTION ( FORTY-SECOND AMENDMENT) ACT, 1976, s.11 (w.e.f. 3-1-1977)

4) NR NAIR v. UNION OF INDIA, (2001) 6 SCC 84

5) ANIMAL WELFARE BOARD OF INDIA v. A. NAGARAJA (2014) 7 SCC 547

6) KARNAIL SINGH & OTHERS v STATE OF HARYANA (2019) SCC ONLINE P&H 704

7) INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1860, s.428 & s.429

8) HUMANS ‘RAPING’ANIMALS: 80 CASES IN INDIA IN 10 YEARS; WHAT LAW SAYS; WHAT ACTIVISTS WANT(2022), EDITORJI, (OCT.4 , 2022, 8:25PM), https://www.editorji.com/india-news/humans-raping-animals-80-cases-in-india-in-10-years-w hat-law-says-what-activists-want-1651237750701

9) VISHWA MOHAN, ‘ CRUELTY TO ANIMALS MAY SOON ATTRACT RS 75,000 FINE, 5-YEAR JAIL’( THE TIMES OF INDIA, 6 FEBRUARY

2021)https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/cruelty-to-animals-may-soon-attract-rs-75000 -fine-5-year-jail/articleshow/80716285.cms

10) THE LAW AGAINST ANIMAL CRUELTY, AND THE RIDICULOUSLY LOW FINES FOR THE OFFENDORS (INDIAN EXPRESS, 22 SEPTEMBER 2022), https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/law-against-animal-cruelty-and-the-ridiculously-low-fines-for-offenders-8164339/



This article is written by Sonalika Verma of Faculty of law, Delhi University.

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