The cases of animal cruelty in India are increasing daily. It remains an irony that in a country, where animals such as Elephant, Tiger, Monkey, Lion and Cow among others are worshipped as gods and deities, incidents of such animals being brutally killed or cruelly treated are spiralling. Not a long while ago, Kerela made news for its infamous Elephant case, where a pregnant elephant was fed a coconut stuffed with firecrackers and suffered fatal wounds and died two weeks later along with its baby. Not so later, news came from Himachal Pradesh that a pregnant cow was fed explosive – mixed eatables and as a result, her jaw was heavily injured.

The spiralling cases have led to questions being raised against the existing legislations and provisions, the law enforcement system and the status of animals in our society. The two aforementioned cases are only the tip of the iceberg. The no. of cases of animal cruelty is exorbitant, but most of them either aren’t reported or not acted upon. Animals have always been an essential part of human society, be it in aiding humans to till their lands, to transportation. But the condescension exercised by the humans on animals is extremely heinous and irrational.

The author through this article aims to analyze the menace that animal cruelty is and why it is quintessential now more so than ever to make laws that can effectuate a functional approach to animal welfare and work in the direction of animal protection. The Article focuses on the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and other legislations and underlines the need for changes in them. Moreover, this article elucidates whether we need more stringent laws to regulate human conduct and impose duties on them or shall we bestow animals with legal rights or legal personhood. Finally, the article points out legislative precedents from across the world and draws a comparison with the Indian Penal code.

Legislations against animal cruelty

Cruelty has been described by the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 as “killing or, torturing or subjecting the animal to unnecessary pain or harm, or exposing them to unreasonable conditions.”

The Indian Penal Code, 1860 under Section 428 and Section 429 provides provisions for animal protection. Section 428 of the IPC prohibits mischief by “killing, poisoning, mutilating or rendering useless any animal of the value of the ten rupees or upwards”, and establishes a punishment of imprisonment which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both. Section 429  prohibits mischief by “killing, poisoning, mutilating or rendering useless, any animal of the value of fifty rupees or upwards”, and establishes a punishment of imprisonment which may go up to five years, or with fine, or with both.

Even a superficial analysis of the provisions against animal cruelty laid down under section 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 would prove that the law is vacuous and the punishment provided therein are ludicrous and lack deterrence if seen in the present context. Both the provisions have been left unamended since the inception of the Indian penal code in 1860. Even the value of the cattle mentioned in the provisions is archaic and is as per 1860. The need of the hour is to move with the times and increase the quantum of punishment so that there is deterrence which makes people refrain from engaging in acts of animal cruelty.

Although the Prevention to cruelty to Animal cruelty Act, 1960 provides a holistic legislative approach and covers almost every aspect of animal cruelty, it certainly lacks in deterrence as the punishment it provides in the case of a first offence is fine of minimum ten rupees but which may extend to fifty rupees and in the case of a second offence committed within three years, of minimum 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. This Punishment, if seen in the contrast of what’s provided in Austria or the U.K seems impotent, ineffective and incapable of creating any deterrence.

Wildlife protection Act, 1972 is another legislation which deals with animal protection setting regulatory standards. It aims to curb the illegal trade of wildlife products and protect all the wildlife outlined in the act.

Moreover, Article 48A and Article 51-A (g) propounds that the citizens and the state shall strive to preserve and augment the environment and to harbour the wildlife and forest of the nation and to have solicitude towards living creatures.

The Prevention to Animal Cruelty Act, 1960 and the Indian Penal Code, 1860 are proving out to be the elephant in the room as they have been left unamended since their inception in 1960 and 1860 respectively. 261st Law Commission report in 2014 under the chairpersonship of Justice A.P. Shah pitched for the need to change the existing law. Despite several attempts being made to amend the law or introduce a new law, i.e. the animal welfare draft bill, 2011, so far is being shelved or postponed for one reason or the other.

More rights to animals or more duty on humans?

Recently a petition was filed in the Supreme Court by an NGO called People’s Charioteer Organization, which sought to demand a bestowal of Legal Personhood to the entire animal kingdom, i.e. to give them the right to sue or be sued in the court of law. The petition also discussed several significant concerns, such as the absence of deterrence in legislation such as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. It also addressed the scarcity of statistics and data on animal cruelty released by the NCRB, while also challenging the validity of current legislation and law – enforcement framework. The Supreme Court did issue a notice to the Centre seeking its reply on this matter but the plea regarding the status of animals as legal entities was dismissed.

It is not the first time such discussions have taken place. This is referred to as the doctrine of Parens Patriae jurisdiction. “Parens Patriae” is defined by the Black Law Dictionary as “a doctrine by which a government can prosecute a lawsuit on behalf of citizens, particularly on behalf of someone who is under legal disability to prosecute the lawsuit.

In Animal Welfare Board of India v. A.Nagaraja & Ors (Jallikattu Case), the Supreme Court broadened the definition of’ life’ and extended the rights granted under Article 21 of the Constitution to all living beings, while also stressing that the “right of each animal to live with intrinsic value, honour and dignity” also comes under Article 21 of the Constitution”. The High Court of Uttarakhand in Mohammed. Salim v. State of Uttarakhand and Narayana Dutt Bhatt v. Union of India bestowed river Ganga and all its tributaries with rights and duties of a Legal person and in the latter declared that all animals and birds have legal rights just as humans, also declaring the citizens to be the guardians of the animal kingdom who are supposed to assume the duty of ensuring their welfare and protection. Subsequently, the court in Karnail Singh v. State of Haryana bestowed the status of legal entity to the animal kingdom, the avian and aquatic species and declared the citizens throughout the State as persons in loco parentis, instructing them to carry out such welfare and protection of animals.

It could be a positive decision to bestow personhood on animals although it comes with a caveat that such a decision can only take effect when the people themselves alter their behaviour in the direction as intended by the decision. Just according personhood to animals won’t bear any fruit. People must be educated in the right direction to effect a change in mindset if such a decision has to take effect, as in the end the administrator of the rights accorded to animals will be humans. In the author’s opinion just bestowing rights upon animals and believing that someone will stand up for them is a hopeful approach. More focus should be laid upon the duties of humans rather than the rights of animals; we expect rationality of humans and animals aren’t rational enough to assert their rights.

Legislations in foreign countries concerning animal cruelty

To put things into perspective we will compare the legislations provided in India to some other countries such as The UK and Austria. The U.K. introduced a law, Animal Welfare Act, 2006 which lays down a Duty of Care towards animals; meaning that any individual owning an animal or who has taken the responsibility of one, must take appropriate measures to ensure that the needs of the animal are met. Transgression of law means a fine of £20,000 or imprisonment for up to 6 months. 

Likewise, Austria introduced the Austrian Animal welfare, Act in 2004 that equates animal life to human life with stringent penalties of fines up to $20000. In 2013, the Netherlands adopted legislation known as the Animals Act, granting animals, protection from hunger, thirst and chronic stress also pledging freedom from mental and physical pain with punishments such as a fine of $25,000 or incarceration for three years. Moreover, the Animal welfare Act, 2005 of Switzerland also provides for a punishment of fine up to 20,000 francs or imprisonment up to 3 years, to those who mistreat animals.

World Animal Protection’s Animal Protection Index 2020 rates different countries from “A” which is the highest score to “G”, the lowest based on their animal welfare policies. India was ranked “C” in the Animal Welfare Index 2020.  

Again, Throwing light on Penalty provided by legislations in India, i.e. up to Rs. 50 by the Indian Penal Code or the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 seems ludicrous and toothless in contrast to the punishment provided in legislations of the aforementioned countries. India must up the ante and bring an amendment to the existing law which incorporated stringent fines and penalties.


We need to act urgently and vigorously against the menace called animal cruelty or it might undergo a metamorphosis and open the floodgates of bigger problems. Zoosadism refer to the pleasure that an individual garners from cruelty to animals”. Studies show that individuals involved in such animal cruelty practices are often more likely to be more hostile to humans, another reason why the problem needs an immediate solution.

India became one of the first countries to enact a law dedicated to deal with the menace of animal cruelty by enacting the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. But since then, we haven’t moved with the times, the penalties provided in the act coupled with those provided in the Indian Penal code, 1860 have formed a feudal system and have become toothless.

The aforementioned problems need to be dealt with new legislation which deals with animal cruelty with iron hands. Draft Animal Welfare Act, 2011 is pending before the house which provides penalties, in case of the first offence, of minimum ten thousand rupees and of maximum twenty – five thousand rupees, or with imprisonment up to 2 years, or with both. The Subsequent offence would lead to a fine of minimum fifty thousand rupees which may extend to one lakh rupees, and with imprisonment not less than one year, extending up to three years.

In Author’s Opinion, a law like Draft animal welfare Act, 2011 would prove to be quintessential and a pertinent step in the right direction, which would certainly have deterrence and would make people think twice before acting in animal’s detriment which forms a key section of our society.

About the Author Manish [2019-24] is pursuing his Undergraduate in Law from National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi.

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