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Bill aimed at protecting animals must be tabled in June.

protecting animals
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Animal cruelty laws and punishments are being reformed in many countries worldwide. Croatia has increased punishments for cruelty, including abandonment of household pets. The Croatian Penal Code was amended on April 2 to increase penalties for causing pain or suffering to animals, as well as murdering or severely abusing them.

In India, a housing society resident’s death of a community dog, Jai, has led to calls for stronger penalties for animal cruelty under Indian law.

Penal laws:

The Prevention of abuse to Animals (PCA) Act (1960), which criminalises animal abuse, has been criticised for its shortcomings over time. The law’s inability to prevent animal cruelty is generally attributed to poor enforcement and inadequate sanctions. Although this is accurate, there is more to this issue than first appears. The PCA Act appears ineffective based on penalty arguments. Punishment theories aim to achieve three main goals: retribution (avenging the crime), deterrence (preventing future crimes), and reformation or rehabilitation (shaping the perpetrator’s future behaviour).

Offences and Fines:

The current version of the PCA Act does not meet all of its objectives. The majority of offences under the Act are bailable (the accused can seek bail from the police) and non-cognisable (the police cannot register a first information report, investigate, or arrest without express permission from a competent court). The sums prescribed as fines under the PCA Act are identical to those in its predecessor, the PCA Act 1890. The fines are insignificant (as low as Rs.10 in many situations) and have not been revised in over 130 years.

The law allows courts to impose either imprisonment or a fine on the offender. Animal cruelty abusers can often get away with even the most heinous acts by paying a fine. The law does not include a provision for ‘community service’, such as working at an animal shelter, as a form of punishment to potentially change abusers. The PCA Act’s inadequacies make it ineffective in addressing animal cruelty.

The Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying released the Draft PCA (Amendment) Bill, 2022 for public consultation in November 2022. Despite overwhelming public support, the Draft Bill was not presented in Parliament. The Draft Bill amends the 1960 Act by introducing five fundamental freedoms for animals, increasing punishments and monetary penalties, and adding additional cognisable offences. Although the draft Bill is a significant improvement over current legislation, it still allows for jail or fines in cases of animal mistreatment, including brutal cruelty and slaughter. Even if the draft Bill becomes law, perpetrators may still be able to avoid imprisonment for acts of extreme cruelty by paying a low fine.

Despite its flaws, the Draft Bill might significantly improve animal legislation in India. In 1954, Rukmini Devi Arundale, the proponent of a Private Member’s Bill to replace the outdated PCA Act (1890), stated in Parliament that India should set a good example for other countries.

We must lead by example, not because we are superior, but because we have spoken more about ahimsa than any other country. The more we discuss it, the more our responsibility to put it into action…” The new government should accept responsibility for implementing revisions to the PCA Act (1960) when it takes office in June.

ABHISHEK VERMA

 


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