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Personhood for Animals & More: Here’s What India’s First Animal Law Center Will Explore

“We hope that the Centre for Animal Law will be the first of many institutions dedicated to the study of animal issues in India and elsewhere.”

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India’s first Centre for Animal Law was established at the Hyderabad-based NALSAR University of Law.

Humane Society International (HSI), India will work with NALSAR University to steer and coordinate the activities of the centre, it said.

N.G. Jayasimha, Managing Director HSI-India and the honorary Director of the centre, said that today is a historic day for India.

Speaking to The Better India about the inception, need, and the details of the course, he says, “We hope that the Centre for Animal Law will be the first of many institutions dedicated to the study of animal issues in India and elsewhere.”

The centre will start accepting students from next year for the 2018-2019 batch. What’s interesting is that this course will also be open to those without a background in law, but have an interest in animal law. A certificate course will be offered to such students.

“Just from looking at the evolution of jurisprudence, we have seen that there is a time and need to extend the law not just to human beings, but also to animals. We have seen a growing interest among people to know more about animal laws.”

“The Apex Court also has been laying down great precedence in animal laws, which has further piqued the interest of law students and lawyers alike.”

Animal Rights?
Photo Source: Pixaby

The Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling in the Animal Welfare Board of India vs. A Nagaraja and Others held that the judiciary has to be the guardian of the animals. If one looks at the interpretation, then it can be inferred that the officers of the court – judges, lawyers, and prosecutors – fall within the ambit of ‘guardians’.

“Keeping this in mind we decided to develop a course on animal law in India,” says Jayasimha.

N.G. Jayasimha
Photo Source: HSI

Jayasimha also told us about all the work that went into conceptualising this centre.

“To assess whether or not students would be keen on pursuing a course of this nature, HSI-India, in collaboration with various institutes, held workshops, seminars, and animal law centric moot courts. The response was great, and that was yet another propelling factor for us.”

The first animal-centric moot court competition was organised in Patiala for which the now Chief Justice Dipak Mishra was the judge.

A paper writing competition on the animal law was held at NUJS, Kolkatta.

HSI-India also started working with various National Law Universities to urge them to set up animal law centres. Every week HSI-India also conducts talks at various law colleges to enhance their knowledge of animal laws.

Speaking about the response from students, he says, “The interest levels are high in the national law schools. While all colleges are welcoming of us, we find that the students at national law colleges are slightly more forthcoming in their questions and suggestions.”

The debates that spring out from such interactions are truly valuable for HSI-India in puting together the curriculum. One of the issues put forth by a student was why we could not look at ‘personhood’ for animals. He debated that if the river Ganga could be considered as a person, and the Uttar Pradesh government could say that Ram Lalla as a deity is a person, then surely we could look at animals in a better light.

While this is the view of one set of students, there is another section that looks at animals purely as utilitarian. HSI-India intends to ensure that both voices and opinions be heard.

“We do not try and shift the debate to either side as that will not help in further academic pursuits. We are open to listening to all different viewpoints.”

What side of the debate are you on?
Photo Source: Max Pixel

The centre is a ray of hope because it does not conform to any notions of right and wrong. Jayasimha passionately says, “The centre opens itself up to whatever part you wish to play in the furthering of animal law. Are you utilitarian? Are you an abolitionist? Are you an incremental welfarist? Are you a pure constitutionalist? There is a place for healthy debate at the centre.”

We look forward to the establishment of the centre.

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