The Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that all animals are legal persons entitled to legal rights like human beings. Echoing an order passed by him while sitting at the Uttarakhand High Court last year, Justice Rajiv Sharma’s order reportedly states,
“The entire animal kingdom, including avian and aquatic, are declared legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person. All citizens throughout Haryana are hereby declared persons in loco parentis (responsible for a child in parents’ absence) as the human face for the welfare/protection of animals.”
The order was passed in a case where the Court was informed that 29 cows were packed in a cruel manner while being transported from Uttar Pradesh to Haryana. In response, Justice Sharma’s order emphasises that animals cannot be reduced to mere property. Striking an empathetic note, Justice Sharma is said to have appealed in his order,
“Cruelty caused psychological pain to them and agony should not be caused to the animals. They breathe like us and have emotions. They require food, water, shelter, normal behaviour, medical care and self determination.”
In view of these observations, as reported the High Court has issued 29 animal-welfare oriented directions.
This includes a ban in using animals to pull vehicles in extreme weather, limits on loads and the number of people that animals are made to carry, limits on the distances that an animal is made to walk at a stretch, instructions on how to tether an animal to the vehicle it is made to pull and a ban on the use of spike sticks, harness and other sharp instruments to avoid injuring the animal.
The Court has also directed that animal-driven carts are given the right of way. Further, Justice Sharma has ordered that the use of animals for such purposes should be limited to nine hours a day, and not more than five hours without a break. The animal should also be given water at appropriate intervals.
This apart, it is reported that Justice Sharma has emphasised on the need for fluorescent reflectors on animals to ensure that they are visible at night and compulsory shelter of suitable size for horses, bullocks and stray cattle. He has also called on veterinary doctors to treat stray animals brought to them.
Justice Sharma was part of the Uttarakhand High Court Bench that passed a similar ruling in July last year, whereby all citizens in Uttarakhand were declared guardians responsible for the protection of animals.
In 2017 Justice Sharma was also part of the Bench that declared rivers Ganga and Yamuna living persons. Later, the same Bench extended this protection to the flora and fauna surrounding the two rivers as well.