The right of animals to get protection from human beings inflicting unnecessary pain on them is a right guaranteed the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, (PCA), the Karnataka High Court reiterated last week.
Justice HP Sandesh noted in the judgment,
“Right to live in a healthy and clean atmosphere and right to get protection from human beings against inflicting unnecessary pain or suffering is a right guaranteed to the animals under Section 3 and Section 11 of the PCA Act read with Article 51- A(g) and (h) of the Constitution of India.”
While observing the above, the Single Judge quashed and set aside an order of the magistrate court, which had ordered that the animals be restored to a man accused of inflicting cruelty on them.
The Court directed that the dogs be handed to NGO Compassion Unlimited Plus Action, which expressed willingness to take care of them.
On September 19, 2020, animal welfare activist Harish KB had filed a complaint with the Inspector of Puttenahalli Police Station against the accused Shreyas for offences relating to animal cruelty.
The police, in turn, registered a case against the accused under Section 11 of the PCA Act.
It was alleged in the complaint that the accused is an unlicensed dog breeder, who was conducting the commercial activity of dog breeding. He had kept in his custody many female dogs and puppies, subjecting them to cruelty by confining them in an unsanitary kennel.
The complaint states that the dogs were not provided with adequate food, water, and veterinary care, thereby subjecting them to pain and suffering. The complaint also narrates that a few dogs are in pathetic condition and need immediate medical care and attention.
Based on the complaint, the police seized five dogs from the accused and handed them over to trust. Later, the said dogs were transferred to a rehabilitation centre for immediate treatment.
The Karnataka Animal Welfare Board shortly issued a notice to the police, directing them to seize the remaining dogs and hand them over to a trusted NGO for care and maintenance.
The petitioner, an NGO named Compassion Unlimited Plus, filed an application under PCA Rules, 2017, seeking for a direction from the Court to permit custody of the aforesaid dogs to it, pending the disposal of the criminal proceedings pending before the magistrate.
The magistrate dismissed the application filed by the petitioner and passed an order directing the police to hand over the interim custody of the dogs to the accused. Being aggrieved by the said order, the petitioner NGO approached the High Court.
Arguments of Parties
A case was registered under Section 11 of the PCA Act on the allegation that the animals that are subjected to cruelty cannot remain in the custody of the owner of such animal, pending investigation. Further, it was argued as per Rules 3 and 4 of the PCA Rules, 2017, the accused cannot retain custody of animals that are subjected to cruelty.
Article 51A(g) of the Constitution of India, which confers a constitutional duty on all citizens and the State to have compassion for living creatures, was also relied on.
The accused argued that the police has given illegal custody of the dogs which are owned by him. It was pointed out that one of the dogs had died when the custody was given to the petitioner and the same is not reported to the Court. As the investigation is not yet completed, any future custody in favour of the petitioner NGO would cause loss to the accused, it was argued.
What the Court held
After going through the rival contentions, the Court observed that,
“The paramount consideration of the Act as well as the Rules is to protect the interest of the dogs, which was subjected to cruelty.”
The Court noted the magistrate court ignored the pathetic conditions of the animals and the injuries they have sustained in the custody of the accused.
“The Rule 3(b) is specific that the learned Magistrate has to take note of the conditions of the dog and exercise the power in consonance with the object of the enactment and also the welfare of the animal and the same has not been considered.”
The Court heavily relied on the Supreme Court’s judgment in Animal Welfare Board of India v. A Nagaraja and Others.
“Having taken note of the principles laid down in the judgment, it is clear that the very object and wisdom of legislature have to be taken note of and also the expanding of 23 the definition and scope of Article 51-A(g) and (h) and also which includes, all forms of life, including animal life, which are necessary for human life, fall within the meaning of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”
The Court concluded by saying that the aspects of cruelty against the said dogs and the greed of the accused had not been considered by the magistrate.
“The learned Magistrate comes to the conclusion that the permission was not obtained by the Investigating Officer handing over the dogs from the Court, but ought to have taken note of the paramount consideration of the dogs which have been treated with cruelty and the report of the veterinary doctor says that the dogs are sustained injuries, instead of going on technicality, ought to have taken note of the paramount consideration of the welfare of the animals that has not been done.”
The Court thus quashed the magistrate’s order and directed for the dogs to be transferred to the custody of the petitioner NGO.