“The animals should not be made to walk more than 2 hours at a stretch.” The Uttrakhand High Court today declared the fauna in Uttrakhand to be a distinct legal entity. In addition, the citizens in Uttrakhand are “declared persons in loco parentis”, i.e.  the human face for the welfare/protection of animals. This understanding of animals having same rights as humans, accompanied with loco parentis would enable Uttarakhand residents to file cases on behalf of animals, and against each other. The verdict is a continuation from the judgment of a New Zealand Court which granted human status to a river https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/16/new-zealand-river-granted-same-legal-rights-as-human-being 

The New Zealand Judgment was immediately followed by Uttrakhand High Court, which declared rivers Ganga and Yamuna as having human status. http://www.livelaw.in/first-india-uttarakhand-hc-declares-ganga-yamuna-rivers-living-legal-entities/ 

The present judgment is a highlight as it in its breadth discloses the great extent of Indian lawmaking. How much an animal should walk, when it should be given water, food, travel with or without shoes are all matters regulated by law. The High Court through its series of regulations have given judicial backing to the provisions as well as made their violation akin to contempt of court. However, the provisions also received negative treatment when the Court said, “The maximum weight prescribed under Rules 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Draught & Pack Animals Rules, 1965 is prima facie excessive. In India, by and large, the weather remains dry. It causes immense stress to the animals to drive vehicles by carrying maximum load, as prescribed under the Rules, 1965 in dry conditions. The need of the hour is to have the expert’s opinion whether the maximum load prescribed under Rules 3 and 4 of Rules, 1965 is reasonable or not.”

Finally, the Court gave 30 directions. Most of them are mere reiterations of the law already made, yet many seem to be too intrusive . For Eg. “The State Government is directed to ensure that throughout the State of Uttarakhand, that no person in charge of any vehicle drawn by any animal allows more than four persons, excluding the driver and children below 6 years of age to ride the vehicle.” Will the limit of four persons be applicable to a horse cart using one person, or will the limit become 8 for a cart drawn by two horses? Similarly, the directions with respect to temperature seem rather difficult to follow. 

Another way to look at the judgment is that it will mostly affect the poor. Let no person be prosecuted until the government fulfils all the aspects for which it is liable under the judgment. 

The judgment is available at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1wIdRJ0Qybh0GfP8YVeJFSKr0aHUzQuDs/view

 

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