Amid outrage over an incident of animal cruelty by a student of VIT Vellore, the university has issued a circular to its students, staff and faculty warning them against engaging in any sort of activity harming animals.
"It is hereby brought to the notice of all the students, staff and faculty members of our University that disturbing the stray dogs, intimidating as well as indulging in animal cruelty by kicking and pelting stones at the dogs is a punishable offence under section 428 & 429 of the IPC..." the circular states.
Animal rights activist Shravan Krishnan, who brought the incident of a 21-year-old engineering student from Vellore throwing a puppy off a roof and killing it to light, shared screenshots of VIT's circular.
The circular also states several "precautionary measures" that students, staff and faculty can take to avoid any such situations.
Screenshots source: Shravan Krishnan/Facebook
Shravan also wrote, "Circular sent by the management to all the students and faculty in VIT after the incident. Well done VIT. This is what we need. This is the change we wanted to create. I hope every college follows this. This needs to be shared widely."
VIT's circular comes at a crucial point, with many incidents of animal cruelty being reported lately, and could help create much needed awareness.
Sensitizing people assumes even more significance considering that the current legislation, with its minimal fines and punishment, sends out a message that it is okay to be cruel to animals. The punishment for animal cruelty in the country could be as low as Rs 10.
Unlike other crimes, animal rights activists had earlier told TNM that it is actually less troublesome to be convicted under the Prevention of Cruelty Act.
Most people charged under the PCA Act plead guilty, said NG Jayasimha, Managing Director of Humane Society International (HSI), India. "The auto fare of going to the court is higher than the fines they have to pay. So they just admit to the crime, pay a token fine and get away with it."
The engineering student, who threw the puppy to its death from the terrace of his apartment complex in Vellore on October 24, was arrested and granted bail on Friday.
"The concerned person was arrested and he was granted bail in the court on Friday. It is a bailable offence. The puppyâ€™s body was found buried near the accusedâ€™s residence and a post-mortem has been conducted," said Karthik, Inspector of Katpadi police station.
The FIR was registered under Section 429 of Indian Penal Code (Mischief by killing or maiming cattle), Section 11 (1) (Treating animals cruelly) (l) (mutilates any animal or kills any animal in a cruel manner) of Prevention of Cruelty Act.
"If they are able to prove Section 429 then the person can get a jail term but that rarely gets proven. It is a long process, after post-mortem is done, then the reports take at least a month, then they have to collect all evidences, file a chargesheet and then send it to the court," Shravan Krishnan told TNM.
How important is VIT's circular?
Dr K Sathiyanarayanan, Registrar of VIT University, Vellore, said that their aim is to warn people to not engage in any sort of animal cruelty.
"It will sensitise people. Also those who do not the laws, they will be more aware," he said.
However, Antony Rubin, a Chennai-based animal activist, feels that while VIT's circular is welcome move, it probably has come a bit too late.
"The problem is VIT has been setting some bad examples itself. We have received calls from people in Vellore saying VIT was using locals to throw out dogs from its campus," Antony alleged.
"Now with the media coverage following a student killing a puppy, they have pulled up their socks. It is good that they issued it. And I hope they practice what they preach," he added.
Antony is also of the opinion that the current laws in the country are adequate enough if only they are implemented and executed properly.
Last year, in another disturbing incident, two medical students in Chennai flung a puppy, who was later named Bhadra, from a rooftop.
Though she suffered injuries, Bhadra survived the fall and has found a loving family that adopted him.
Antony had filed an FIR in the case and the court case is still underway.
"The guys have got bail, but a charge sheet has been filed. It is a procedural issue. That is how our legal system is. We have to be patient. We have a good laws, we just have to enforce them," he said.
He also said that compassion towards animals being taught in school from the very start could have a huge impact in our attitude towards animals.