Animal rights: A food on politicians’ plates, stricter laws yet to come in South Asia

2016-06-03-1464958846-8518405-SouthAsian-thumbBy Jivesh Jha–    

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Mahatma Gandhi

While the compassion for animals remain alive in the hearts of the people of South Asian region, the member states of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is yet to welcome the animal welfare concerns proudly in their Constitution held fundamental document of the land by many.

Though the South Asian nations have arrived at international stages on number of occasions to influence the global policies, the parliaments of Bhutan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Pakistani, and Sri Lanka are yet to irrigate the messages of conventions on their domestic soil as the task of planting any corpus of Constitutional provisions related to animal welfare remains incomplete. The Islamic state of Maldives, Pakistan and Bangladesh offer no room for any express provision relating to animal welfare in their Constitution.

However, the Sri Lankan charter in its Concurrent List lends power on state to formulate legislation on animals. Article 151 beginning with marginal note of Inter-provincial trade says that any reasonable restriction imposed in the interest of animals with the consent of President would be valid in Pakistan. Nonetheless, the charter disowns any other welfare provisions.

Of 8-member states of SAARC, the charters of Pakistan and Bangladesh are yet to plant any express provision for environmental conversation as well; however, the remaining states have acknowledged the concerns of environment, including wildlife. However, the critics argue that the parliaments of Pakistan and Bangladesh failed to take cognizance of environmental rights as the two Constitutions were drafted too soon after Stockholm convention. Noted, the statutes have suffered scores of Constitutional amendments after its enactment.

The Afghani charter in its Article 14 provides, “The state, within its financial means, shall design and implement effective programs to develop agriculture and animal husbandry, improve economic, social and living conditions of farmers, herders and settlers as well as the nomads’ livelihood. The state shall adopt necessary measures for provision of housing and distribution of public estates to deserving citizens in accordance with the provisions of law and within financial possibilities.” As the charter prescribes a duty on state to strengthen the animal husbandry on its economic capability, the provision appears to be unjustifiable in any court of law.

The Nepali charter, the newest Constitution of the world, enacts that cow ‘shall be the national animal,’ Article 9(3). However, the statute is yet to script any other provisions relating to animal rights.

Meanwhile, the Muluki Ain (The General Code of Nepal) provides, “Any person who transports a cow, branded bull (Sandhe) or bullock (Basha) from the territory of Nepal to a foreign country, and kills or causes other person to kill such an animal, he or she shall be liable to the punishment of imprisonment for a term not exceeding Six years.”

Further, “If a person knowingly kills a cow or bullock, the person shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of Twelve years, and a person who instigates (gives words) for the same shall be imprisoned for a term of Six years. A person who kills a yak (Chauri) shall be liable to a fine of Forty Rupees for each yak.”

The Code further provides “No person shall sell or purchase a bullock (Basha) or branded bull (Sandhe). If any person so sells or purchases, the amount received from the seller shall be confiscated, and that person shall also be liable to punishment. If the purchaser purchases a bullock (Basha) or branded ox (Sandhe) without knowing about the branded mark, such a person shall not be liable to punishment. In such a case the buyer shall be entitled to receive (get back) the purchased amount from the seller, and the seller shall also be liable to punishment.”

Similarly, if a person administers poison to cow or bullock, causes grievous hurt to cow or bullock, and holds the cow or bullock with an intention to kill will be punished with imprisonment for a term of six years, two years, and six years, respectively.

Showing an extraordinary seriousness, the Code enacts, “No person shall use a bullock or branded ox or cow to plough land. If any person ploughs with the help of such an animal, he or she shall be liable to a fine of up to Twenty Rupees and such an animal shall be set free.”

The Code also sets limitation period: if a suit is not filed within Six months in the case of killing of a cow and within 35 days on the matter of other offences, after the date of the cause of action, the suit shall not be entertained.

The provisions relating to cow and bullock have been enshrined under Chapter 7 [On Quadruped] of Part-IV in General Code of Nepal.

The Indian Constitution, the eldest charter in the region, scripts that “The state shall endeavor to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall , in particular take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle,” Article 48. The provision, beginning with marginal note of Organization of agriculture animal husbandry, is enlisted within the ambit of Directive Principle of State of Policy (DPSP), the same is not enforceable in any court of law. Further, the constitutional Act also imposes a fundamental duty on every citizen of India to have compassion for living creatures, Article 51A (g).

When asked whether the legislations are protecting animal rights, Senior Campaigner of Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organization (FIAPO) Shweta Sood said the Indian parliament has drafted ample amount of legislations for animal welfare but their implementation in true and material sense is still an uphill task. “Though Section 429 of Indian Penal Code (IPC)-1860 envisages that any person taking life of animals would be sent behind the bars for a term which may extend to five years, the police officers’ are found little serious in lodging FIRs against the lawbreakers.”

However, the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC)-1860 also provisions for the similar arrangement under Section 429. “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 both,” reads Section 429 of PPC-1860.

Noted, as the IPC-1860 is a colonial legislation; it was applicable to the whole of British of India. After independence, the two splinter countries–Pakistan and Bangladesh—adopted the same statute of criminal law but with certain amendments and modifications in name of the Act. Unlike India, Pakistan terms it as PPC-1860, and Bangladesh makes it as Bangladesh Penal Code (BPC)-1860. The statute-1860 contains as many as 511 Sections.

Similarly, the penal provision for causing violence on animals (Sec. 429 of IPC-1860, BPC-1860 and PPC-1860) in Bangladesh stands on similar footing with India and Pakistan. The similar provision has been embodied under Section 412 of Sri Lankan Penal Code.

In contrast, a defendant would be guilty of the offence of malicious mischief, if the defendant causes serious bodily injury to an animal, says Bhutan Penal Code. The punishment for the malicious mischief has been enshrined under Section 397 which provides for a maximum term of imprisonment of less than three years and minimum term of one year for the convicted defendant.

On the contrary, the Afghani Penal Code under section 509 provides that a person who by mistake kills or injures someone else’s animal shall be sentenced to short imprisonment not exceeding 10 days, or shall be fined an amount not exceeding 300 Afghanis. Further, in addition to fine not exceeding 5000, one shall be sentenced to short imprisonment, if a person who intentionally and needlessly kills or severely hurts or harms the riding animal of other,” says Section 495.

Even as violence against animals is not only horrifically increasing in South Asia but its gearing pace globally, the Maldivian Penal Code remains indifferent to incorporate any animal welfare provision.

Moreover, “The animals are sentient and they can experience both positive and negative emotions, including pain and distress, like we humans. However, unnecessary pain and suffering on animals not only violates the legislations, but also pose a serious threat to the whole ecosystem. So, the states should acknowledge animal rights,” further said Mrs. Sood.

“It’s a well-settled principle that the civil and political rights should encompass the pantheon of human rights while ensuring the inclusion of animal rights,” said Devika Singh Rana, a faculty of Environmental law at Siddhartha Law College, Dehradun.

The cruelty towards animals violates Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA) and militates the prevention of constitutional duty of treating animals with compassion, Article 51A (g). It also undervalues the expansive appraisal of the Apex Court which had given in the past to Article 21 (right to life and liberty), which forbids any trouble to the environment, including animals, considered as essential component for human life,” further added Mrs. Sood. She maintained that any case of violence against animals should be dealt criminally. “Ironically, the PCA provisions that whoever causes violence or cruelty on dogs shall be punished with a fine of Rs 50.”

Turning our compassion into action can uplift the status of all animals breathing in South Asian region and can prevent them from suffering, being ill-treated, and finally save them from being the victim of cruelty and brutality.

It’s time for the South Asian states to decide if they want to recognize their animals as sentient or continue washing their hands off in taking action against such culprits who find joy in taking life or harming the animals that are also capable of understanding fear, sadness, anxiety, boredom and even love.

Lets’ not make the rights of animals like foods served on the plates of politicians. What people think is cool about food and what people think is cool about animal welfares are different. “We may not want the animal rights activists to express their sentiments against lenient laws, fine, but what are we doing to ensure they don’t feel hostility?,” said Abhiranjan Dixit, a faculty of International Law at Uttaranchal University, Dehradun.

Facts stand where they do. There seems to be no end to the long list of complaints against offenders causing violence on animals. However, the political forces are yet to come up with a commitment to uproot the violence against animals.

The facial appearance may be varied, the food patterns may vary, the expressions may not be identical, the lifestyles may be different, but the emotion remains the same: the animals too feel fear, sadness, anxiety, boredom and even love.

So, let’s not sweep the rights of animals under the carpet!

(Published on September 6, 2016)

The author can be contacted at : [email protected]


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