A video gone viral shows a man patting a dog on the Boat Club Road near Van Vihar in Bhopal. He scoops the trusting soul in his arms and suddenly flings him across the bridge, several feet down into a lake, also known as Bada Talab or Bhopal’s Upper Lake. Thereafter the accused smiles into the camera, the smug satisfaction of having accomplished this dastardly act. Within minutes the clip was all across the social media. An animal rights group promptly approached the police and taking cognizance of the video the police registered a case of animal cruelty against him.
As per the latest update the man has been arrested today and booked under Section 429 of the IPC for committing mischief against an animal which is punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. Reports have confirmed that the animal is safe too. Indies are street smart dogs with strong survival instincts. Fortunately, the dog recovered from the shock and swam its way to safety.
Animals are protected under Sections 428 and 429 of the IPC. These provisions make killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless any animal, a punishable offence. The central law for protection of animals in India is the Prevention of Cruelty against Animals Act. This was enacted in the year 1960 with the avowed objective of preventing the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals.
However, the issue here is regarding the culpability of the offender. In order to attract liability under Section 429 of the IPC, the animal should have been either killed, poisoned, maimed or rendered useless. In the present case, the animal in question being safe, the offence is not constituted, but the accused will be held liable for torturing and subjecting the animal to unnecessary pain and suffering, which is punishable under Section 11 (1)(a) of the Prevention of Cruelty against Animals Act , 1960. The sad part here is the quantum of punishment prescribed under the antiquated law. All incidences of animal cruelty under Section 11 of the act are 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.
A ludicrous fine of 10-50 rupees for a first time offender is hardly serving any of the purposes of punishment. It is neither sufficiently punitive nor a deterrent. The Animal Welfare Board of India had suggested amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty against Animals Act, 1860 by increasing the amount of fine to 10,000 rupees and a minimum of three years imprisonment. Citing the amendments as unnecessary in a country full of compassionate people, as usual political will overshadowed animal welfare concerns and the draft was dismissed. In 2014 (Animal Welfare Board of India v. A Nagaraja and Others) the Supreme Court had also recommended an overhaul of the penalties and punishments in the PCA Act, 1960 to effectively control the incidences of cruelty against animals. But, it is unfortunate that this law has not been amended even once since it was drafted 70 years ago.
Yesterday’s incident brought back memories of a 2017 incident where an engineering student from Vellore, Tamil Nadu had thrown two pups from his college terrace, killing them on the spot. He had reportedly posted in a Whats App group, ‘1 down, 1 more to go, doggy tales’. A few months back also there was news of a female elephant being fed crackers inside a pineapple. The pregnant pachyderm met a painfully agonizing end while silently standing in waist deep water to ease her pain. Similarly there was an incident of a cow being fed explosive. Such heart wrenching incidents, when left unpunished or with bare minimum punishment leaves one high and dry. The helplessness at the sheer incompetence of our legal system to revamp obsolete laws is frustrating. Such incidents when left unpunished embolden the sinister plans of other animal haters. Thankfully, social media is doing a great service to these helpless creatures now a days. The fear of public naming and shaming and the stigma of arrest and subsequent conviction does serve to discourage such people.
I wish and pray for better sense to prevail among my fellow humans. In the words of Nobel peace prize winner Albert Schweitzer, “Dear God, protect and bless all beings that breathe, keep all evil from them and let them sleep in peace”. Amen.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.