AN ANALYSIS OF ANIMAL CRUELTY AND THE LAWS IN LIGHT OF THE ELEPHANT DEATH CASE
“Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution.
Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.” ——– THOMAS ALVA EDISON
Animal rights is the idea in which animals are entitled to the possession of their own existence and that their most basic interests, such as the need to avoid suffering and they should be afforded the same consideration as similar interests of human beings. The history of the animal protection movement dates back to the 3rd century when king Ashoka explicitly banned the killing of any animal in his kingdom.
But in today’s competitive world, no concern is paid to the basic morals and ethos and in a rat-race to earn more and more money, animals become the targets. They are incapable of raising their voice against these cruelties, so we consider it a chance for harassing the animals and immorally killing them.
This article mostly talks about laws against animal cruelty prevailing in India discussed in the context of the recent Kerala Elephant Death Case which occurred on May 27, 2020 wherein a pregnant elephant killed after chewing on an explosive stuffed pineapple given by the locals.
BRIEF INSIGHT OF THE ELEPHANT DEATH CASE
The gruesome incident and a cowardly act which happened on May 27, 2020 at Thiruvizhamkunnu forest section in Kottopadam gram panchayat which triggered the whole nation wherein the pregnant elephant had chewed on an explosive stuffed pineapple that went off in its mouth. The injured animal then stood in Velliyar River together with her mouth and tongue destroyed within the explosion where it died a painful death. The next day, the Kerala government ordered an enquiry into this case. The most shocking part was discovered during the post-mortem of the elephant. The doctor who undertook the post-mortem was holding the foetus of the baby elephant in his hands. The locals had allegedly fed a cracker-filled pineapple to the elephant.
This is the most recent instance of animal cruelty. There had been many cases happening through out the nation where the offence less animals are made to suffer. To curb or it can be said ‘intending to curb’ the menace of cruelty against animals, various laws have been initiated by the Central Government, but the main laws concerning prevention of animal cruelty are the ‘Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960′ and Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Cruelty to Animals means animal abuse that is knowingly inflicted upon animals by human beings for any gain.
LEGAL PROVISIONS ASSOCIATED WITH ANIMAL CRUELTY IN INDIA
- Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 1960
- Section 11 (a) to Section (o) has itemized different forms of cruelty to the animals.
- The law strictly prohibits unnecessary cruelty to animals and lays down guidelines for transportation of animals.
- It is illegal to kill harmless animals.
- The law strictly prohibits treating animals cruelly and has also laid down the ways in which an animal could be exploited or abused, like beating, kicking, over-riding or torturing by which it suffers pain unnecessarily, or keeping an animal chained for an unreasonable period and all, these acts would result in punishment including a fine ranging between Rs 10 and 50 and for a subsequent offence, a fine between Rs 25 and 100 or imprisonment for three months.
- Section 3 of the Act has laid down various duties of a person to take care of an animal and not to harm him or inflict injuries upon him.
- Under the light of the statute, the establishment of the Animal Welfare Board took place will take all the possible steps to ameliorate the pitiable condition of the animals by providing sheds for animals to live in and by providing veterinary assistance to them at any hour. To give all kinds of assistance, including financial aid to animal welfare organizations, so that other such organizations are set up to work under the supervision of the board.
- Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 is an Act passed by the Parliament of India on August 21, 1972, and later implemented on 9 September 1972. This Act was enacted for the protection of plants, birds, and animal species. The Wildlife Protection Act is an umbrella Act to protect wild animals and plants. This Act includes provisions for protection of plants and animals, hunting, harvesting and various other ancillary matters.
- It prohibits the sacrifice of animals, by Section 39 of the Act there is a strict prohibition on any injury to the animals and the penalty is mentioned in section 51 of the act.
- Section 50 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 authorizes a police officer to arrest any person without a warrant.
- Monkeys cannot be displayed or owned and are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act as well.
This Act is one of the most important wildlife protection laws in India.
- Indian Penal Code, 1860
Indian Penal Code also holds several provisions to stand against the cruelty done to animals.
- Section 428 in the Indian Penal Code states about ‘Mischief by killing or maiming animal of the value of ten rupees.’ It states that Whoever commits mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless any animal or animals of the value of ten rupees or upwards, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
- Section 429 in the Indian Penal Code states about ‘Mischief by killing or maiming cattle, etc., of any value or any animal of the value of fifty rupees.’ It states that Whoever commits mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless, any elephant, camel, horse, mule, buffalo, bull, cow or ox, whatever may be the value thereof, or any other animal of the value of fifty rupees or upwards, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both.
- The Indian Constitution
The Constitution of India itself provides some provisions for the protection of wildlife.
- Article 48A in the Constitution of India states about Protection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wildlife. The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.
- Article 51A(g) in the Constitution of India has provision to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.
STEPS TAKEN AGAINST THE ELEPHANT DEATH CASE
The social network has been through a state of outrage and anger over the demise of the elephant in Kerala. These platforms are full of gruesome cartoons and caricatures of the ‘pregnant’ elephant that was brutally murdered. TV news channels and some newspapers across India since followed up with sensational news items of their own. There had been tweets over tweets. This evolved to be a case of man-animal conflict.
There had been five accused of this case. The Forest Department arrested three persons in connection with the incident. The other two are still absconding. A letter issued by the government urged the Kerala government to ‘look into the matter on priority and take immediate action for nabbing the culprits and bringing them to books and also identify the officer(s) who may have acted irresponsibly which led to the suffering of the elephant for more than 48 hours without treatment eventually leading to its death.’
A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a Court monitored CBI or a Special Investigating Team (SIT) probe into the case. It is averred that that since “authorities concerned have failed to prevent such killing of the protected animals despite the laws in place”, a Court monitored investigation of the above cases through the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or alternatively a Special Investigating Team (SIT) probe becomes imperative. The National Green Tribunal has too registered a Suo motu case regarding the incident in Silent Valley Forest in Kerala.
The animals should be treated with equal dignity as they have the equal right to life as the human beings.
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE LAWS
There are several legislations, but those needs to be properly implemented when needed. We often notice that the forest officials also resort to illegal practices with the regular ‘poachers’ and thus the cases of immoral trading and poaching remains undiscovered. The laws regarding animal cruelty needs to be examined very thoroughly. Such criminal acts against innocent animals are not any different than acts of meditated murder against other humans. One of the most noticeable fact when it involves animal cruelty is that neither the legislature is undeservedly bothered nor the people of this nation. Reasonable steps must be taken.
What reasonable steps?
- Complaint to the local SPCA (Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)
- Contact the police and lodge an FIR under the prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1956
- Have knowledge about the current laws against prevention of cruelty towards animals
- The person who encounters such an incident must take a stand against such thing
CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS
We will be able to make numerous laws, but laws alone can never succeed without a way of responsibility. The people behind such acts of animal cruelty actually belong in prison. The judiciary has a very important function, i.e., if the punishments for such kinds of offense can be made stricter, then the people will try to take care and will not ruthlessly kill innocent animals. Despite so many laws the drive will come only when people collaborate with animal rights bodies and organizations and make efforts to improvise the pitiable condition of animals. Apart from this, government and non-government agencies can take steps to correct the system. After this case, it also came into light that a cow was similarly killed. These inhumane activities needs to be stopped. Everyone should keep in mind “Animals should not require our permission to live on Earth, they were given the right to be here long before we arrived.” The elephant was cremated inside the forest in a ceremony presided by forest officials. Two lives were lost- the mother and the unborn child. The least we can hope is that those responsible are tried under proper law. This incident also proved that high literacy can not preside over humanity.
Author: SHINJINEE NAMHATA,
IFIM LAW SCHOOL, BENGALURU, 1st Year BBA-LLB