Animals declared as ‘legal persons’ in Uttarakhand
In a first, the Uttarakhand High Court has accorded the status of ‘legal person’ to the animals in the state. With the ruling, the entire animal kingdom in the state, including the avian and aquatic animals, will be treated as legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.
In a first, the Uttarakhand High Court on July 4, 2018 accorded the status of ‘legal person or entity’ to the animals in the state and said that "they have a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person."
The unique status was bestowed upon the state’s animals by a division bench of judges comprising Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Lokpal Singh while issuing a series of directions to prevent cruelty against animals.
The bench said, “to protect and promote the greater welfare of animals including avian and aquatic, animals are required to be conferred with the status of legal entity/ legal person.”
Key Highlights of the Ruling
• With the ruling, the entire animal kingdom in the state, including the avian and aquatic animals, will be treated as legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.
• The court has further declared all the citizens of the state as guardians of the animals and has endowed them with the duty to ensure their welfare and protection.
• The division bench also issued directions regarding the amount of load allowed to be pulled by various animals in accordance with the kind of carriage being pulled and the number of riders per carriage.
• The bench also banned the use of spike or other sharp tackle or equipment on animals.
• It also directed the state government to ensure that if the temperature exceeds 37 C or drops below 5 C, no person be permitted to keep in harness any animal used for the purpose of drawing vehicles.
• Going into the aspect of animal safety, the court highlighted the need for fluorescent reflectors in carriages and animals, certificates of unladen weight of vehicles, compulsory shelter of suitable size for horses, bullocks and stray cattle and a direction to the veterinary doctors of Uttarakhand to treat any stray animals brought to them or by visiting them.
• The court said that as the carts driven by animals have no mechanical devices, animal-drawn carriages have to be given ‘Right of Way’ over other vehicles.
In the common judicial system, there are two types of persons:
- Natural persons or human beings
- Artificial persons, who are also known as juristic persons, juridical entity or a legal person other than a natural person
The Uttarakhand Court’s order came on a public interest lawsuit seeking restrictions on the movement of horse-drawn carts between Indian and Nepal through Banbasa.
The petition also sought provisions for vaccination, medical checkup of the horses for suspected infections before entering into the Indian Territory from Nepal and for regulating traffic in the border areas.
Last year, on March 20, 2017, the Uttarakhand High Court had accorded the status of 'living human entities' to the Ganga and Yamuna, the two most sacred rivers of India.