Landmark Punjab Ruling Should Be a Message to All Courts Around the World

Donkey Cart India

In an unprecedented move, all animals have been declared ‘legal persons’ by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in India, meaning that they are now entitled to the same legal rights as human beings.

“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,” Justice Rajiv Sharma said in a 104-page judgement this week.

“We have to show compassion towards all living creatures. Animals may be mute but we as a society have to speak on their behalf. No pain or agony should be caused to animals… Cruelty to animals causes psychological pain to them and in Hindu mythology, every animal is associated with God.”

Sharma issued several further declarations including;

  • a ban on using animals to pull vehicles in extreme weather;
  • limiting loads and the number of people that animals can carry;
  • that no animal shall carry weight or load in excess of the prescribed weights;
  • that the weight be halved if the route being travelled on involves an ascent;
  • limiting the distances that animals are made to walk;
  • a ban on the use of spike sticks and other sharp instruments to avoid injuring animals;
  • that animal-driven carts be given the right of way on roads;
  • that fluorescent reflectors be attached to animal-driven carriages and the animal to ensure they are visible at night;
  • that compulsory shelter of suitable size be provided for horses, bullocks and stray cattle by municiASI bodies;
  • that veterinarians treat stray animals brought to them;
  • that State authorities make sufficient housing and food provisions available for stray animals;
  • limiting the use of working animals to nine hours a day and not more than five hours without a break;
  • that animals be given water at appropriate intervals; and
  • that no animal shall be transported on foot beyond specific periods;

Justice Sharma also provided information on how to tether an animal to a vehicle that it is made to pull. The 104-page order follows a case where 29 cows were crammed together in a cruel manner and transported from Uttar Pradesh to Haryana. It was unclear exactly what kind of vehicle was used.

“Animals breathe like us and have emotions. Animals require food, water, shelter, and medical care,” he said.

Sharma signed off the order stating Live and let live.”

ASI Spokesperson David Barritt, applauded Sharma for his ruling, saying it was one of a kind.

“We hope that this ruling can be replicated across the world, so that animals can be viewed in the same light as humans. We hope that citizens who own animals in India will observe these orders and ensure they look after their animals as they should be doing,” he said.

“It’s also refreshing to note that the judge has directed veterinarians and the State to treat stray animals and make food and housing provisions for them. We have long been fighting for this cause and it’s fantastic to see a judiciary carrying it out. Well done India!”

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