The Ministry of Environment and Forests has proposed to increase fines for cases of animal cruelty in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960, according to a report in The New Indian Express. However, animal rights activists who have been pushing for change in what they say is an archaic legislation, are disappointed by the proposal. The increase in the fines, they say, is too meagre to be a real deterrent.
Here are the proposed changes:
1. Increasing minimum fine from Rs 10 to Rs 25 and maximum from Rs 50 to Rs 100 for cruelty to animals defined as ‘beating, kicking, over-riding, over-loading, torturing or otherwise treating any animals so as to subjecting them to unnecessary pain or suffering’.
2. Increasing the penalty for ‘phoonka’ and ‘doom dev’ which is the process of blowing air into the vagina or anus of milch animals in the belief that it will increase the amount of milk they produce.
The TNIE report quotes a ministry official justifying the increment as a 100% increase on existing limits, and claiming that the fines could not be increased exponentially.
Animal rights activist Vasudev Murthy says the proposal is completely “absurd, disheartening and disgusting”. “They just lost an incredible opportunity to give animals the dignity and right to life they deserve. But this legislation just makes one feel hopeless,” rues Murthy.
Like Vasudev, Chinny Krishna, Vice-Chairman of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) is not convinced by the argument that the ministry cannot implement an increase in fines greater than 100%.
Incidentally, the AWBI had submitted a draft bill to the ministry in 2011, which not only expanded the ambit of what could be seen as ‘animal cruelty’ but also proposed a larger quantum of fines. According to AWBI’s draft, the minimum punishment proposed was a fine of Rs 10,000 and the maximum proposed was imprisonment for three years.
Vasudev argues that a person who can pay Rs 10 could just as casually pay Rs 25. “This is 2016. When they can increase fines for traffic violations in tandem with the current times, I don’t know why the same isn’t done here,” says Murthy.
“The proposed changes show the priority that is given to animal life in this country,” says Chinny.
NG Jayasimha, Managing Director of Humane Society International (HSI), India, had earlier told TNM that increasing fine amounts was not enough to bring about attitudinal change, but would send out an important message.
“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 said.