Kerala High Court: A.K.Jayasabjarab Nambiar and Gopinath P., JJ., had initiated the instant petition, suo motu, to monitor State action in reported instances of cruelty to animals, as also to take stock of the measures adopted by the State Executive to effectuate the rights and freedom recognised as inherent in all animals under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Opining that actions are warranted in myriad situations, and only some had been highlighted before the Court, the Bench took an optimistic approach to identify other issues of concern and address them in the instant suo motu case. The Court said,
“Frighteningly, frequent have been the instances of cruelty to animals reported in the media in the last couple of years that we believe that the State must now resort to affirmative action to alleviate their misery.”
The Bench clarified that it was not an attempt to embark upon an exercise of laying down policies that should govern State Action in regard to protection of animal rights, rather, an endeavor to alert the State Executive to the circumstances in which, and the extent to which, it would be required to act in discharge of their constitutional and statutory obligations. The Bench added,
“We believe that a meaningful effectuation of rights can be achieved only when the different branches of Government work in concert, and it is this cooperation that we expect in the course of these proceedings.”
Based on the discussions in Court, the Bench issued following directions:
- To the Registry to rename the writ petition as “In Re: Bruno (Suo Moto Public Interest Litigation Proceedings in the matter of executive and legislative inaction of the State Government in the matter of Protection of Animal Rights)”, as a tribute to the hapless dog that succumbed to acts of human cruelty, and disturbed by which the Court had initiated the proceedings.
- Directions were issued to respondent-6 to file a report with regard to the action taken till date on the complaint received from the owner of the dog, Bruno, that was killed in the inhuman and gruesome incident on the outskirts of Trivandrum.
- The Director General of Prosecution, Mr. T.A.Shaji, was requested to show personal attention in the matter and ensure that the wheels of the criminal justice system are set in motion to bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice.
- Respondent-2, an advisory body constituted under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960 was directed to immediately draw up a feasible action plan towards implementing an awareness campaign to educate and sensitize our citizenry to the rights of animals and the corresponding duties and obligations required of the citizenry.
The Bench opined that immediate steps in this regard would initiate a change in the attitude of the citizenry towards the welfare of animals which woud avoid occurance of such gruesome incidents in future.
The Incident in Question
Bruno was killed on Adimalathura beach on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram by three men who pounced on the labrador resting by the boat owned by Sunil, one of the three and started thrashing it. They hit the dog with a thick stick, then hung it on the boat with a fishing hook and continued raining blows till it seemed dead. The Police said that the accused had had spats with the dog owner Christuraj in the past, at least on one occasion over the dog urinating near their vessel.[i]
Animal Welfare Board
The Counsel for an erstwhile Board member of the Kerala State Animal Welfare Board, Mr.M.R.Hariraj, informed the Court that the Animal Welfare Board for the State consituted pursuant to the directions of the Supreme Court in Geeta Seshamani v. Union of India, (2008) 17 SCC 55, had a tenure of only three years, in spite of it being entrusted with the task of regulating the activities of various institutions/establishments like pet shops, aquariums, etc., as also overseeing breeding activities of animals, therefore, it was not able to effectively function during its initial tenure. Considering the grievances of the Board, the Bench directed the State government to inform the Court regarding the steps taken by it to reconstitute, and render functional the State Animal Welfare Board.
Veterinary Hospitals and Allied Infrastructural Facilities
Opining that the veterinary hospitals and allied infrastructural facilities available within the State were in dire need of up-gradation, the Bench directed the State government to take steps to improve these facilities and issue directions to the local self government Institutions ie. the Corporations, Municipalities and Panchayats in the State, to comply with their respective statutory obligations as regards provision of animal shelters, dog pounds, cattle sheds etc., and further ensure that there is no delay occasioned in such compliance on account of insufficiency of funds. Relying on the decision in Animal Welfare Board of India v. A.Nagaraja, (2014) 7 SCC 547, wherein, the Supreme Court had recognised five freedoms as inherent in all animals, and had treated the said freedoms as akin to the rights guaranteed to the citizens of our country under Part III of the Constitution, the Bench stated that the State cannot not cite insufficiency of funds to shirk away from a discharge of its constitutional obligations.
Right to keep Pets in Residential Apartments
Additionally, the State government was directed to,
“Explore the possibility of promoting and holding animal adoption camps throughout the State at periodic intervals of not less than thrice a year, where persons can be encouraged to adopt animals that had been abandoned by their owners, and were left to wander in the streets in search of food and shelter.”
The Bench added, care has to be taken to ensure that adoption in such camps is always in the best interests of the animal concerned. Noticing that Animal Welfare Board of India had already issued instructions recognising the right of individuals to keep pets in residential apartments, and discouraging the insertion of clauses in the bye-laws of residential apartment associations that prohibit that keeping of pets by the residents of such apartment complexes, the Bench directed State government to consider the possibility of entrusting the District Administrations with the power to enquire into complaints of infringement of animal rights and cruelty to animals, as also instances where persons are prevented from keeping pets of their choice in their residential apartments.
In order to get timely assistance with regard to identifying other issues of concern, the Bench appointed Senior Adv. Mr. S.Ramesh Babu and Adv. Mr. T.C. Suresh Menon, as Amici Curiaeto assist the Court. The matter was posted on 13-07-2021 for further hearing.
[In Re: Bruno, W.P(C).No.13204 of 2021, decided on 02-07-2021]
Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together