By Surbhi Agrawal, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun.
“All beings fear before danger, life is dear to all. When a man considers this, he does not kill or cause to kill.”
Part III of the Constitution of India, 1950 deals with Fundamental Rights which is referred to as the Magna Carta of India. The Magna Carta, the first written document relating to the Fundamental Rights of Citizens, is the evidence of its success. The aim of having an assertion of Fundamental Rights is that certain elementary rights such as, Right to Life, Liberty, Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of Faith and so on, should be regarded as inviolable under all conditions and that the shifting majority in legislature of the country should not have a free hand in interfering with these Rights.1
In the historic judgment of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India2 it was observed that: “These Fundamental Rights speak about the essential qualities valued by the populace of this country (India) since the Vedic times and they are ascertained to secure the dignity of the individual and create conditions in which every human being can develop his personality to the fullest extent. They weave a ‘pattern of guarantee’ on the basic structure of human rights, and impose negative obligations on the State not to encroach on individual liberty in its various dimensions”.
The Fundamental Rights of which I am alluding are only pertinent to Human Beings and not to Animals or Birds. Scientifically, Human Beings are referred to as Animals then why don’t they have Fundamental Rights?? Why cruelty is done against them? Do they not come in the category of living beings? If yes, then why they don’t have the Right to Life, Liberty and Freedom as we do under the Constitution. Animals also have feelings and rational thinking. For example: orangutans, just like humans, they can reason and form relationships. These intelligent creatures are also known to build elaborate nests with the use of sophisticated tools and construction skills according to the University of Manchester researcher Roland Ennos. Apart from this, aquatic creatures like orcas and bottlenose dolphins are also noted to respond to self-awareness tests like the Mirror Test. Additionally, non-human primates like chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and orangutans show laughter-like vocalizations in response to physical contact, such as wrestling, chasing, or tickling. Therefore the scope of Article 21 must be widened and animals can be taken into its ambit.
A bird was born to fly and soar freely and without borders created by men. So why did men confine them? Is it even there’s to restrict? We all are God’s creature, so, who gave us the power of superiority over the others?
Let’s go back into the history and image a situation of World War- II when Human Prisoners were kept in cages without sustenance and nibbled cruelly. This is nothing; the torment which we give to those innocent birds is more pathetic than those prisoners. We slaughter innocent birds who have not committed any mistake, with our bare hands. We human beings understand that these birds are intelligent, they can feel, communicate and socialize with one another and even after knowing all these facts, keeping them caged is the most terrible thing that we do to them.
For a Human being, Fundamental rights were deemed essential to protect the Rights and Liberties of the people against the encroachment of the power delegated by them to their Government. Then why it is not regarded as an essential for an Animal or a Bird? They should also be protected, through the rights and liberties, against the encroachment of the power of persecutor.
Considering all the perception about the Fundamental Rights of the animals and birds, different judgments of Supreme Court and High Court will clarify all the suspicion about the Fundamental Right of the Animals and Birds.
The Bakra Eid Festival which is celebrated throughout the Country is one of the greatest issues. It is a fact that large number of animals is slaughtered during Bakra Eid Festival. It is reported that during the transportation of animals, the owner of the animals do not follow the animals welfare laws and transport of Animals Rules, which prescribes the number of animals which can be transported in a vehicle, resulting in cruelty to the animals. It is noticed that animals suffer and are subjected to various cruelties and some of the animals even die during transportation.
As you may be aware cruelty to any animal is a punishable offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Such violation is against the spirit of Article 48, 48(a) and 51 A(g) of the Constitution of India.
In case of Laxmi Narain Modi v UOI & Ors., it was held that unscrupulous person who are carrying on the business of illegal slaughter are violating the Prevention of Cruetly to Animals Act, 1960 and Rules were made there under. Such unlawful practice is also against the local Municipal Acts and Rules and also the directions issued by the Supreme Court of India.
Likewise in the case of State of West Bengal v Ashutosh Lahiri and others3, it was held that slaughtering of healthy Cows on Bakra Eid day is not essential or required for religious purposes of Muslims, and accordingly, an order exempting slaughter of such Cows was held illegal by the operation of the West Bengal Animal Slaughter Control Act, 1950, also various judgments were passed by High Courts and Supreme Courts by preventing the slaughter of Animals.
In a landmark judgment of: A. Nagaraja & Ors. v. Animal Welfare Board of India4, The Supreme Court has recently recognized the five fundamental rights of the animals including the right to live with dignity and announced twelve stringent measures for the Govt. and other implementing authorities to stop cruelty on animals.
Following the above judgment another landmark judgment has been passed, People for Animals v. MD Mohazzim & anr.,5 in which all birds have given Fundamental Rights to “live with dignity” and cannot be caged for business or other purpose. It has been clearly stated keeping birds in cages for trade purposes was a “violation of their rights”. Justice Manmohan Singh by expressing the rights of caged birds communicated his view that instead of being allowed to fly free they are exported to other countries under terrible conditions wherein they are denied of food, water and medical aid. Delhi High Court has passed the judgment in the favour of birds by freeing all birds in captivity.
All living creatures that exist on this earth should have Fundamental Rights. They should not be deprived of their rights on the premise of any obsolete reason. As human beings are referred to as animals, rights of animals should not be deprived because of human beings. Animals and birds are the beautiful creatures inhabiting this same Earth as us, thus, they must also have the constitutional “right to live with dignity” and they should not be the victims of mercilessness portrayed by anyone.
1 A.K.Gopalan’s case, AIR 1950 SC 27.
2 AIR 1978 SC 597.
3 1995 AIR 464, 1995 SCC (1) 189.
4 2014, SCC Del
5 2015 SCC Del 9508.