Is three-month imprisonment and Rs 10 fine enough for happily throwing a dog off a terrace?

The current legislation, with its minimal fines and punishment, sends out a message that it is okay to be cruel to animals
Is three-month imprisonment and Rs 10 fine enough for happily throwing a dog off a terrace?
Is three-month imprisonment and Rs 10 fine enough for happily throwing a dog off a terrace?
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Horrified at a Chennai boy throwing a dog off a terrace?  The dog killer, an MBBS student and his friend who shot the video, are on the run. But the fact is that the price of animal cruelty in India is as low as Rs 10.

Unlike other crimes, animal rights activists say it is actually less troublesome to be convicted under the Prevention of Cruelty Act.

Most people charged under the PCA Act plead guilty, says 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 fine owes its ludicrousness to the time that the law was drafted: 1960. “The problem is that the fines were never adjusted to inflation since then. The law was never updated,” Jayasimha says.

Under the PCA, offenders can be given 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.

Animal rights activist and Vice-Chairman of the Animal Welfare Board of India Chinny Krishna says that a draft of amendments to the PCA Act had been sent to the government in 2011, but nothing had been done about it.

A copy of the 2011 draft is available on the AWBI website and it calls for a substantial increase in the penalties prescribed in the PCA Act, 1960. For instance, section 11 of the PCA Act defines what constitutes treating animals cruelly and states:

“He shall be punishable, in the case of a first offence, with fine which shall not be less than ten rupees but which may extend to fifty rupees and in the case of a second or subsequent offence committed within three years of the previous offence, with fine which shall not be less than twenty-five rupees but which may extend, to one hundred rupees or with imprisonment for a term which may extend, to three months, or with both.”

The AWBI’s draft not only expands the ambit of the acts that count as cruelty under section 17 of the draft but also suggests a minimum fine of 10,000 rupees and a maximum imprisonment of three years.  

Jayasimha explains that there is a clear lack of political will here which prevents substantial law and policy for animal welfare being put into effect. The last time animal welfare reforms happened was when Jairam Ramesh was environment minister. Prior to that, Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure also witnessed policy changes in animal welfare.

“I met our environment minister Mr Javadekar once and he told me that there’s no need to increase penalties because India is overall a very compassionate country,” he says. “We need an environment minister who understands that he is a trustee of the environment, not a trader,” asserts Jayasimha.

Jayasimha adds that while just increasing the fine and punishment for animal cruelty is not enough, it sends 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.”

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