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The constitutional framework for the protection of animal rights in India

by In-house Editor

The Constitution of India is a comprehensive body of legislation that acts as the nation’s top law and regulates the fundamental political concepts, citizen rights, and obligations in addition to the structure and power of governmental institutions. The Indian Constitution, sometimes referred to as a “living document,” is dynamic and adaptive, developing along with shifting social demands and beliefs.It is notable for having the longest written constitution in the world, with 395 articles divided into 22 sections and 12 schedules. The idea of constitutional supremacy, which states that the Indian Parliament cannot overturn the Constitution’s essential structure and principles, is a key component of the Indian Constitution. 

India acknowledges the significance of animal welfare within this constitutional framework and addresses it through a variety of components:

1.Fundamental Rights (Part III): 

The Fundamental Rights (Articles 12 to 35) in Part III of the Constitution give fundamental rights to every person. Notably, Article 21 acknowledges the Right to Life, which the Supreme Court has broadly construed to include the protection and welfare of animals. The Supreme Court stressed the inherent worth, honor, and dignity of animal life in the Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja & Ors. (the Jallikattu case), which serves as an illustration of this approach.

2. Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV):

The Directive Principles of State Policy are found in Part IV and provide the government with direction when drafting laws and policies (Articles 36–51). Regarding animal welfare, there are three important principles: Cattle breed improvement and preservation are emphasized under Article 48, which also limits the slaughter of cattle. The state is required to protect the environment and animals by Article 48A, which was adopted by the 42nd Amendment in 1976 and may be enforced under the Right to Life (Article 21).

3.Fundamental Duties (Part IV-A): 

Article 51A (Part IV-A) outlines Fundamental Duties for Indian citizens, including the duty to protect and improve the natural environment, which encompasses wildlife. This duty also entails having compassion for all living creatures, emphasizing concern for their welfare and suffering.

In the Jallikattu case, the Supreme Court affirmed the practice’s prohibition, underscoring how important Article 51A(g) is to Indian law’s treatment of animals.

Additionally, legal advances have made certain aspects of animal welfare, such cow slaughter, clearer. Although Article 48 promotes the preservation of cows and calves, the Supreme Court has ruled that a complete prohibition on cattle slaughter is not legal if it places an undue financial burden on farmers. However, the Court determined in the case of State of Gujarat v. Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kassab Jamat (2005) that Article 48 does call for a complete outlawment of cow slaughter and stressed the significance of having compassion for animals since they have inherent rights.

In conclusion, the Indian Constitution, through its Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles of State Policy, and Fundamental Duties, establishes a comprehensive framework for animal protection and welfare, reflecting the evolving values and concerns of society as it adapts to changing times.

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