Wildlife Protection in India : Needs Strengthening - Daily Current Affair Article for UPSC, IAS, Civil Services and State PCS Examinations
Why in News?
- A couple of cases of cruelty towards animals have come to light in the past few weeks which have enraged many and made one ponder as to whether the laws in existence are sufficient enough to protect animals. The most recent of all incidents of cruelty that have taken place this year, are that of killing of a pregnant elephant from Kerala, a pregnant cow from Himachal Pradesh and a jackal from Tamil Nadu.
- Several organisations and experts have urged the government to strengthen the laws to protect animals.
Protection against Cruelty
- There are several laws under the Constitution of India, Indian Penal Code (IPC), Prevention of cruelty to Animals, (Slaughterhouse) Rules, 2001, Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, Prevention of cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (PCA Act) to mention a few for the safety, protection, punishment in cases of animal cruelty. Article 48A, Article 51A(g), Sections 428 and 429 of the IPC lay out rules against animal cruelty among other Rules and a Acts of Indian Constitution. Rule 3 of Slaughterhouse Rules, 2001 also states that animal sacrifice is illegal in every part of the country. In addition, certain wildlife crimes are also investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
- The Government of India enacted Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 with the objective to effectively protect the wild life of this country and to control poaching, smuggling and illegal trade in wildlife and its derivatives. The Act was amended in January 2003 and punishment and penalty for offences under the Act have been made more stringent.
- Under Section 1(5) of the Wildlife Protection Act, a captive animal is "captured, or kept or bred in captivity". Section 40 of the Act gives special status regarding possession, inheritance, or acquisition of the animal.
- Animal rights are protected under Article 51A(G) of the Constitution, which makes it a citizen's duty to protect wildlife and show compassion for living creatures.
- In the Concurrent List, both the Centre and states are given the power to prevent cruelty to animals and protect wild animals and birds.
- The overarching legal framework to act against cases of animal cruelty is the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, which aims to stop the infliction of unnecessary suffering or pain on animals.
- Under this, the perpetrator will be punishable with fine which may extend to Rs 100, or with imprisonment for a term that may extend to three months, or both.
- However, since the elephant was wild, and not domesticated, the culprits are likely to be prosecuted under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, another central Act which helps the cause of protection of not just animals, but also birds and plants.
- More than a decade since the Supreme Court issued a directive for states to set up an Animal Welfare Board, states across India are still either yet to form a State Animal Welfare Board or, where formed, yet to support its functioning with staff and budget availability.
- States like Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Laskhwadeep have animal welfare boards but they are not in a functioning position with one or more issues, like no officer appointed to the board, no budget allocated, no meeting of the board conducted, no staff and other shortcomings. While, some states and Union Territories like Karnataka, Bihar and Puducherry were yet to form or reconstitute the board.
- Further, prevention of cruelty to animals came in 1960, but the penalties have not been revised for more than 50 years.Like several other countries around the world, hurting animals in India is also considered a punishable offence. But the lack of effective laws indirectly encourages the occurrence of such tragic incidents. The maximum punishment under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 is a fine of 50 rupees or imprisonment up to three months or both.
- When compared to the West, it is apparent how urgent it is for the law to be revised. In the United States, acts of cruelty against animals are now counted in the FBI’s criminal database. In Australia, the maximum penalty for animal cruelty offences is a fiveyear prison term and a fine of A$50,000 (US$36,000) for individuals and A$250,000 for corporations.
- Section 11 (i) of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 says that abandoning an animal, leaving it in a situation that it suffers pain due to starvation or thirst, is a punishable offence. In this case, the fine can go up to Rs. 50. If the same crime is committed within three years again, the person has to pay a fine of anything between Rs. 25 and Rs. 100 or an imprisonment of up to 3 months or both. Evidently, neither the fine nor the imprisonment is strict enough to prevent people from harming animals.
- Killing, poisoning, maiming or torturing an animal is a cognizable offence under Section 428 and Section 429 of the Indian Penal Code. The punishment for such an act is rigorous imprisonment which may extend for up to 2 years or a fine or both in this case, as well, the fine is just Rs. 10 or above, an amount so minuscule that places no value on an animal's life.
- As per the government of India, Animal Birth Control Rules 2001, no sterilised dogs can be relocated from their area. If the dog is not sterilised, the society can ask an animal welfare organization to sterilise and vaccinate it, but they cannot relocate them.
- Keeping, or confining any animal chained for long hours with a heavy chain or chord amounts to cruelty on the animal and punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to 3 months or both.
- If an owner fails to provide its pet with sufficient food, drink or shelter, he/she shall be liable for punishment according to section 11 (1) (h) of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 is a punishable offence. Again, the fine extends to mere Rs. 50 with a subsequent crime committed within three years of the first one to be fined with Rs. 25- Rs. 100.
- It's illegal to slaughter animals at places, like temples and streets that are not licensed to do so. The act of animal sacrifices is covered under Local Municipal Corporation Acts, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, Indian Penal Code (IPC).
- Teasing, molesting, injuring, feeding or causing disturbance to any animal by noise or otherwise is prohibited according to the section 38(j) of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Anyone found guilty of this offence may face an imprisonment of up to 3 years or a fine of up to Rs 25,000 or both.
- Section 16 (c) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 also makes it unlawful to injure, destroy wild birds or reptiles, damaging their eggs or disturbing their eggs or nests. The person found guilty can be punished with an imprisonment of 3 to 7 years and a fine of Rs 25,000.
- According to section 98 of the Transport of Animals Rules, 1978, animals should be healthy and in good condition while transporting them. Any animal that's diseased, fatigued or unfit for transport should not be transported. Furthermore, pregnant and very young animals should be transported separately.
Ending Private Ownership
- There are 2,675 captive elephants in India, according to the information received by Tamil Nadu-based animal welfare activist Antony Clement Rubin via a Right to Information response from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in November 2019
- Of these, 1,821 are in private custody and the rest are under the care of the forest department of various states. Among the elephants in private custody, some are owned by individuals and others by institutions like temples and circuses.
- The Indian Elephant is protected under Schedule one of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which affords maximal protection. It is listed as "Endangered" in the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- Elephants are social animals, they need other elephants around them, and when they are kept isolated environments such as temples, it automatically elevates their stress hormones
- Elephants in captivity are often not allowed to have mud baths. "Mud acts like sunscreen for them, and keeps away ectoparasites. As a result, they develop skin problems.
- Other issues they face include blindness and cataract, "since they are out in the sun all the time." If they had their own will, they would find shade
- There are close to 500 privatelyowned captive elephants in Kerala alone. The forest department does not have the resources to cater to all of them.
- While a long term policy change is the need of the hour, experts offer a variety of views for handling the gentle giants in captivity. The CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology study on captive elephant stress recommends "minimising participation in religious activities, processions" and creating opportunities "for elephants to interact with other elephants in the facility."
- Designated care facilities and rescue centres run in a publicprivate collaborative partnership would be the best model to run such centers with free flow of funds, veterinary expertise and management support.
- The wild elephant's death is a wakeup call for the country to protect its wildlife. This can be done by protecting wildlife corridors and resolving man-animal conflict. Therefore, there is a urgent need to make or strengthen the some provisions of the existing legislations. Central Government and state governments should implement the legislation in a proper manner.
- We can no longer ignore the fact that rampant trade of wild animals for the benefit of humans resulted in outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. And if we do not act now, this won't be the last pandemic. Wild animals belong in the wild. That is their natural habitat.