On Thursday, a heartless case of animal cruelty came to light from Vellore in Tamil Nadu. A month-old puppy lost its life on October 24 after allegedly being thrown from the terrace by a final year mechanical engineering student.
The accused, Vishesh Iyengar, was arrested on Friday and also granted bail on the same day. The FIR against him was registered under Section 429 of the 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 to Animals Act.
Since the news broke on November 2, a number people have taken to social media to share the puppy’s photo with the hashtag #nomore50. Angered by the crime, citizens are calling for the punishment for cruelty to animals to be increased. See some of the posts here.
The number ‘50’ in the hashtag is a reference to the abysmally low fine stipulated in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
The price offenders pay for animal cruelty in India is as low as Rs 10. The Act, formulated in 1960, has not been amended to keep pace with current times. “The problem is that the fines were never adjusted to inflation since then. The law was never updated,” NG Jayasimha, Managing Director of the Humane Society International (HSI), India had told TNM earlier.
Under the Act, offenders can be charged a maximum fine of Rs 1,000 or a sentence of two years or both, for offences such as ‘practicing phooka or doom dev’ (blowing air into anus or vagina of a milch animal with the belief that it will produce more milk). For other offences, the fine could be as low as Rs 10 with a three-month imprisonment or both.
It is not as though there haven’t been attempts by animal welfare workers to change the law. The draft of amendments was formulated by the Animal Welfare Board of India and sent to the Parliament in 2011. The draft suggests a minimum fine of Rs 10,000 and maximum punishment of three years imprisonment.
However, there has been little to no progress on the draft for the last six years.
This debate had come up last year when a puppy was thrown from a terrace by a medical student in Chennai while his batchmate filmed it. The same hashtag “nomore50” had surfaced even then. But hardly anything has come out of these efforts in terms of legislative modifications.
“The current legislation sends out the message that it’s okay to be cruel to animals. When you increase the penalty, it won’t bring a change in attitudes overnight, but people will know that this is something to be taken seriously,” Jayasimha had observed.