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All Animals Are ‘Legal Persons’, Court Declares: Here’s What It Means

All Animals Are ‘Legal Persons’, Court Declares: Here’s What It Means

That means, it is our duty, as citizens, to ensure their safety and well-being.

My four-year-old once asked me if a monkey is a person. I smiled and said no. But if he were to ask me that today, I would have to answer in the affirmative.

Here’s why.

Animals and birds have legal rights, just as humans, declared the Punjab and Haryana High Court in an exceptional judgement. It further declared citizens as the “guardians of [the] animal kingdom” with a duty to ensure their welfare and protection.

Justice Rajiv Sharma, in his order, said, “All the animals have honour and dignity. Every specie[s] 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.”

That means, it is our duty, as citizens, to ensure the following:

Representative image only. Source: Pexels

• Animals are healthy and comfortable,
• Well-nourished and in a safe environment,
• Express innate behaviour without pain, fear and distress.
• Be entitled to justice, and;
• Safe from being treated as objects or property.

Justice Sharma went on to say the following:

Animals, be it wild or domestic, will not give you trouble unless you give them one: Rasila Wadher

• No one shall cause any harm to animals;
• No more than nine hours of work in a day for the animals will be permitted, and after every five hours, the animals must be rested;
• In places where the temperatures exceed 37 °C, no work will be permitted between 12 p.m.-3 p.m., and when animals are being transported by foot, it is essential that the temperatures are between 12°C-30°C. The animals should not be made to walk more than two hours at a stretch and be provided with water every two hours, and food every four hours;
• There are guidelines for animal-based commercial businesses as well. No aquarium or fish shop shall source fish tank animals caught by destructive fishing practices; no one shall be allowed to be a dog breeder without the requisite registration; pups less than eight weeks cannot be sold; dogs over six months cannot be sold without first being sterilised, unless they are being sold to an authorised breeder; no one can operate a pet shop without a proper license.

This judgement has been applauded by several animal activists who believe that it should be implemented in all states and not just be restricted to Punjab and Haryana.


While the general idea is good, there are also some contradictions. While laying down, “No one shall use animals for drawing any vehicle,” the judgement says, “Carts pulled by animals must be given the ‘right of way’, and that, “There shall be no use of spike sticks, harness or yoke with spikes, knobs, projections and other sharp instruments”.

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It would help if this could be further clarified to prevent any grey areas in compliance with the judgement.

The judgment is a great first step, and we hope that this would lead towards better and ethical treatment of animals in India.

(Edited by Shruti Singhal)

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