What appears to be a highly ‘paw’sitive move, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on 31 May, 2019, declared the entire animal kingdom as legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.
"All the animals have honour and dignity. Every specie has an inherent right to live and is required to be protected by law. The rights and privacy of animals are to be respected and protected from unlawful attacks. The Corporations, Hindu idols, holy scriptures, rivers have been declared legal entities and thus, in order to protect and promote greater welfare of animals including avian and aquatic, animals are required to be conferred with the status of legal entity/ legal person. The animals should be healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behaviour without pain, fear and distress. They are entitled to justice. The animals cannot be treated as objects or property" said Justice Rajiv Sharma.
Justice Sharma signed the verdict with a ‘live and let live motto’ and stated that all the citizens throughout the state of Haryana are declared to be persons in loco parentis (meaning ‘in the place of a parent’) as the human face for the welfare and protection of animals.
The order has been passed in Haryana after a year of Uttarakhand passing an order to ‘protect and promote greater welfare of animals’. Both orders were passed by Justice Sharma who was transferred from the Uttarakhand High Court to the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The State of Haryana has also been directed to enforce the provisions of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Aquarium and Fish Tank Animals Shop) Rules, 2017; Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Dog Breeding and Marketing) Rules 2017; and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Pet Shop) Rules, 2018, in letter and spirit.
Justice Sharma further directed the State of Haryana to ensure that no person shall use or cause to be used any animal for drawing any vehicle or carrying any load for more than nine hours in a day in the aggregate; for more than five hours continuously without a break or rest for the animal; and in any area where the temperature exceeds 37 degree C (99 degree F) during the period between 12 noon and 3.00 p.m., as per Rule 6 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Draught and Pack Animals Rules, 1965.
The judgement further stated that since the carts driven by animals have no mechanical devices, they should be given the ‘Right of Way’. All the Police Officers throughout the State of Haryana are directed to ensure compliance of this direction to avoid inconvenience to the animals.
The State Government has also been directed to ensure that no animals shall be transported on foot on hard cement, bitumen coated or metalled roads, steep gradients or hilly and rocky terrain, irrespective of weather conditions (summers and winter), as per Rule 30 of the Rules of 2001.
The animals shall be transported on foot only when the temperature is between 12°C to 30°C. The animals should be provided water every two hours and food in every four hours. The animals should not be made to walk more than 2 hours at a stretch.
The State Government is directed to ensure that in any area where the temperature exceeds 37°C (99°F) during the period between 11.00 am and 4.00 p.m. in summers and when the temperature is below 5°C between 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. and between 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. in winter season no person is permitted to keep or cause to be kept in harness any animal used for the purpose of drawing vehicles.