The Supreme Court Wednesday agreed to hear a plea which has raised the issue of cruelty on animals and sought to declare entire animal kingdom, including avian and aquatic species, as legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights of a living person.
While issuing notices to the Centre and others seeking their replies on the petition, which has also sought a direction to all the States and Union Territory (UTs) to take action if any case of cruelty on animals comes to light including on social media, the apex court said it is “very unlikely” that it would entertain the prayer for declaring them as legal entity.
“We will issue notice but it is very unlikely that we will entertain the prayer for declaring them as legal entity,” a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde orally said during the hearing.
“Issue notice,” the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, said in its order.
Besides the Centre and some of its ministries, the plea has arrayed all the states, UTs, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and the Animal Welfare Board of India as party.
During the hearing, the bench asked the counsel appearing for the petitioner, “What you mean is that animals can sue or be sued? That is the meaning of legal entity. Is your dog equal to you?”.
To this, the counsel said that animals can be considered as equal to humans.
The lawyer said when legal status can be given to a temple then why cannot such status be given to animals.
“Animals are vulnerable and if we will grant them this status then they can be protected,” said the lawyer, representing petitioner NGO ‘People’s Charioteer Organization’.
The plea has said that NCRB should report and publish data and statistics relating to cruelty on animal and crimes against them in its annual report under separate head.
It has sought directions to all the states and UTs to take appropriate steps for mandatory registration of FIR under relevant penal provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 1960, “whenever any incident of animal cruelty surfaces or comes to light on social media or otherwise”.
The plea has also sought a direction to the Centre to form an independent committee monitored by the apex court and consisting of members from all relevant departments and ministries, which can review the entire legal framework in order to curb the menace of cruelty against animals.
While referring to recent reported incidents of cruelty on animals in the country, the plea has said that such incidents have enraged many and raised a question as to whether existing laws are sufficient enough to protect animals from possible abuse and cruelty.
It alleged the rights of animals exist only on paper due to their lack of implementation and enforcement.
The plea said that legal status has been accorded to animals in two recent verdicts rendered by the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the Uttarakhand High Court.