Updated: August 9, 2015 4:05:34 am
Union Law Minister Sadananda Gowda has written to the Bar Council of India chairman to include books written by his cabinet colleague Maneka Gandhi on animal rights in the curriculum of law schools and colleges. Gandhi, the Union Women and Child Development Minister, is also an animal rights activist.
Gowda has also written to chief justices of high courts and chief ministers asking them to conduct annual workshops for judges and prosecution officers (public prosecutors) to help them adjudicate on cases of cruelty to animals “since no law college takes up animal laws as a subject”.
In his letter to Bar Council chairman Manan Kumar Mishra, Gowda wrote: “…leaving aside the meat consumption issue for the time being, we need to sensitize our citizens about cruelty caused by us to animals in many forms while using them for farming purpose, religious activities, sports activities, recreational activities like circus and while transporting animals etc. We need to make lawyers acquire comprehensive knowledge on various laws governing animal rights and prevention of cruelty to animals. The best way to start forward is to include these aspects in the curriculum of law colleges.”
“I am herewith attaching a list of Acts pertaining to animal rights and also the books written by Smt Maneka Gandhi for including the same in the curriculum on law schools and colleges,” Gowda stated in the letter.
Mishra was not available for comments. Dr Ranbir Singh, vice-chancellor of National Law University, Delhi, described as “unethical” the recommendation of a particular book. He said animal welfare laws are already covered in law schools under the environment head.
“There are many good books by lawyers, judges etc. Ethically recommending one particular book should not be done, I have never seen anybody recommending anybody’s book. Besides law universities are autonomous institutions where we already teach Wildlife Protection Act etc under the environment section. Bar council does lay down compulsory and non compulsory courses but nothing can be imposed on the 1400-odd law schools,” he said.
Dr S N Singh, former dean of Law Faculty Delhi University, called it “highly objectionable” for the Law Minister to suggest what book should be included in the law curriculum.
“Even Bar Council does not have the mandate to do so. It is wrong to recommend a particular book. Only one book on Professional Ethics, that too because books on the subject are not easily available — the council suggested in an indicative way that it may be used. Otherwise, it is the call of law schools what books they teach. As for animal welfare laws they are covered a bit under environment and also when Article 51A of the Indian Constitution is taught that talks of compassion to animals as one of the duties of a citizen.”
Reacting to letters from Gandhi highlighting lack of awareness about animal welfare laws, Gowda has also written to chief justices of high courts and chief ministers asking them to conduct annual workshops for judges and prosecution officers.
“\…Handling of these (cruelty to animals) cases is different from other civil or criminal matters and the procedures are complex. Professional legal assistance with expertise in handling of these cases is hard to find since no law college takes up animal laws as a subject… it is important that sensitization workshops be held in the State Judicial Academies for judges and prosecution officers each year. This would also assist them in gaining more insight into cases pertaining to veterinarian malpractice, housing disputes over ‘no pets’ policies and civil cases on death or injury to pets or companion animals,” Gowda wrote in letters to chief justices.
Gandhi’s letter is enclosed in the letter to the chief justices. The Animal Welfare Board of India, a statutory body formed under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA) 1960, will undertake such training sessions under the aegis of the National Judicial Academy.
The move to train legal officers comes after AWBI provided course materials and master trainers for the Bureau of Police Research and Development and the Ministry of Home Affairs. Animal welfare laws are now mandatory at all police training colleges.
Apart from PCA, there are a host of other laws relating to animals, including the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, Prevention and Control of Infectious and Contagious Diseases in Animals 2009, Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001, Transport of Animal Rules, 1978, Animal Registration Rules 2001 and Breeding and Experiments on Animals (Control and Supervision) Amendment Rules 2001.
Some states like Delhi have already issued orders to ensure trial in every case relating to cruelty against animals and scrupulous recording of court proceedings. Incidentally, the Delhi order refers to Gandhi’s original representation to Gowda rather than Gowda’s letter. The state though pointed out, in a letter to Gandhi, that earmarking a separate team of prosecuting officers specifically for such cases was not possible.