A draft Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Amendment) Bill, 2022, prepared by the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry, and Dairying, has been opened for public comments until December 7, 2022.

 

Background

  • The Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act, 1960 is one of the most comprehensive laws on the subject of animal welfare in India.
    • The Act was authored by acclaimed dancer and animal lover, Rukmini Devi Arundale.
  • It is an Act of the Parliament passed in December 1960 with a vision to prevent cruelties on animals.
  • The Act enshrines provisions for establishing the Animal Welfare Board of India, its powers, functions, constitution, and term of the office of members of the Board.

 

What is the need for amending the existing law?

  • In September, a doctor in Rajasthan’s Jodhpur allegedly tied a dog to his car and dragged it across the city. The dog had a fractured leg and suffered bruises.
  • An offence such as this — fairly common in India — would currently attract charges under Section 428 (mischief by killing or maiming animal) IPC and Section 11 (treating animals cruelly) of The PCA Act, 1960.
  • First-time offenders under the PCA Act are punished with a fine of Rs 10-50.
    • If it is found that this is not the offender’s first such crime in the past three years, the maximum punishment would be a fine between Rs 25 and Rs 100, a jail term of three months, or both.
  • In short, the penalty is very light in the law as it exists now, and is incapable of acting as any deterrent for potential offenders.

 

Who has called for amendments and on what grounds?

  • In 2014, the Supreme Court, in ‘Animal Welfare Board of India vs A Nagaraja & Others’, had said that “Parliament is expected to make proper amendment of the PCA Act to provide an effective deterrent” and that “for violation of Section 11, adequate penalties and punishments should be imposed”.
  • In September 2020, Kishanganj MP Mohammad Jawed brought a Bill in Parliament saying that the maximum punishment be hiked.
  • In 2021, Kendrapara MP Anubhav Mohanty also proposed a Bill, expanding the definition of cruelty to include events where “animals are subjected to cruelty either during the sport or activity itself”.
  • In 2020, a group of MPs cutting across party lines wrote to then Animal Husbandry Minister Giriraj Singh, urging that the punishment in the 1960 Act be increased.
  • In October 2021, the government said it would bring in a Bill to amend the PCA Act.
  • Union Minister for Animal Husbandry Parshottam Rupala said “We are ready with the draft amendment Bill. We are in the process of getting the Cabinet approval.”
  • The government has finally moved in this direction.

 

Proposed major amendments

  • Essentially, the law is proposed to be made tighter, with more stringent punishments.
  • Several offences have been made cognizable, which means offenders can be arrested without an arrest warrant.
  • The draft Bill has proposed to include “Bestiality” as a crime under the new category of “Gruesome cruelty”.
  • The proposed law also says that “in case of a community animal, the local government such as municipality or panchayats shall be responsible for taking care of the community animals in a manner developed by the State Government or by the Board”.
  • The draft defines “community animal” as “any animal born in a community for which no ownership has been claimed by any individual or an organisation, excluding wild animals as defined under the wildlife Protection Act, 1972.”

 

About the ‘Animal Welfare Board of India’

  • It is a statutory and advisory body advising the Government of India on animal welfare laws, and promotes animal welfare in the country.
  • The Animal Welfare Board of India was established in 1962 under Section 4 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960.
  • The Board consists of 28 Members, who serve for a period of 3 years.
  • It works to ensure that animal welfare laws in the country are followed and provides grants to Animal Welfare Organisations.
  • The Board was initially within the jurisdiction of the Government of India’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture. In 1990, the subject of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was transferred to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, where it now resides.
  • It frames a range of rules on how animals ought to be humanely treated everywhere. It has also frequently litigated to have stricter laws to ensure animals were not unduly harassed or tortured.
  • Its headquarter has shifted to Ballabhgarh in Faridabad District of Haryana from Chennai, Tamil Nadu.