“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

Has humanity hit a new low?

In a country where animals have been worshipped and considered sacred, the brutal crime of raping the unspeakable beings has been witnessed by us since a prolonged time period. Amongst the many, a few of the reported cases from the year 2017-2020 have been highlighted.

  • In July 2020, a female stray dog was raped by a 40-year-old man in Maharashtra; a 55 year old man was arrested for raping a cow in Madhya Pradesh.
  • In May, 2020 a 30-year-old man raped a baby calf. 
  • In July, 2018, a pregnant goat had died after being gang-raped by eight men in Haryana’s Mewat district.
  • In August 2017, a 34-year-old man was accused of raping a female puppy to death in Delhi. The puppy later bled to death.

These are just a few reported instances; there are several others which have not made to the eyes of the public. This display of animal abuse across India exposes persistent weakness of our country’s laws against cruelty and rape of animals.

What is Bestiality? 

Bestiality is a type of sexual offence in which animal is used as a medium for satisfying sexual desire without developing any kind of emotional bonding. It is a sexual connection 

between a human being and an animal.In common law it is termed as a “crime against nature”

Bestiality instead of being a serious crime is an underreported form of animal cruelty in our country and it is a punishable sexual offence in India under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

ANIMAL PROTECTION LAWS IN INDIA

“In a country where human rape is overlooked, what are the odds of justice being served in an animal rape case?”

  • Bestiality Law under IPC:

Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (hereinafter referred to as “IPC”) refers to ‘unnatural offences’ and says whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to pay a fine.

The Supreme Court clarified that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code will not be applicable to same sex acts between homosexuals, heterosexuals and lesbians. However at present, this section is applicable to bestiality and sexual acts making it a punishable offence.

  • Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960:

Animals in India occupy a non-human status, wherein they are treated as a commodity or property. The property status is indicative of a lower position occupied by animals, as a result of which sufficient liability is not imposed in instances involving harm and infliction of cruelty upon them. This is reflected in the penal sanctions available under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (hereinafter referred to as “the PCA” or “the Act”) which deals with cases of animal cruelty. However, the PCA only imposes a maximum criminal liability of fifty rupees on the perpetrators based on its current application.The PCA has been heavily criticized for being inadequate and for lacking the necessary force to prevent atrocities towards animals.

Public policy makers assume that humans are inherently superior to animals and thus, deserve more rights than them, and sometimes also at their expense.The inadequacy of law has been reflected in the filling of legitimate complaints. Police have been highly reluctant in filling cases for animal rape and sexual abuse as the laws are not in place for the same in the Country. In Delhi, it was alleged that a goat was gang-raped by eight men. The goat’s owner had registered a complaint with the police and when the goat went missing. It was however developed in the investigation that the goat was raped. According to a member of the wildlife activist the police had not taken curative steps and action in this matter.

PSHYCOLOGY OF THE OFFENDORS

Research in psychology and criminology shows that people who commit acts of cruelty to animals don’t stop there—many of them move on to their fellow humans. A person who was involved in childhood bestiality is more prone to commit adult interpersonal crimes and must be taken as a cautioning signal by the society.

An American study found that 96 per cent of offenders who had engaged in bestiality is also admitted to committing sexual assaults on humans. A vast majority of Western countries, including Australia and nations in Europe and North America, criminalise bestiality and seriously prosecute offenders.Ameerul Islam—who was accused in the infamous Jisha murder case in Kerala in 2016—raped and killed dogs and goats before he was sentenced to death for raping and murdering the law student.India has also criminalized bestiality. “Murderers … very often start out by killing and torturing animals as kids,” says Robert K. Ressler, who developed profiles of serial killers for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

SPREAD AWARENESS:THE NEED OF THE HOUR

Neglecting, the topic always causes more damage than addressing the issue head on. Bestiality is one of those things that people don’t want to think or talk about. There has been a hike of bestiality arrests attributing to better awareness. Still, there is a lot to address in our prevailing legislation and a need to understand the psychology of those committing this odious offense. From the minimal to the atrocious crimes all have had and are having their presence in our country. The sorrowful truth is that the major part of the society will turn a blind eye one this factor.

Bestiality is more of an epidemic than we realise but since this topic has been shoved under the rug since a prolonged time and now we need to shed the light and stand as one against this immoral behaviour. 

On the national level, there is no data collected by the authorities also the unawareness amongst the people as well as the officials has led to the non- reporting of many cases. The major reason of the non- implementation of these laws is the unawareness of this heinous crime.

  • Role of Individuals

Individuals such as you and I and adherents of the society at large have an indispensable role to play in battling this animal cruelty and bestiality, that has dug deeper into our society today. Individuals should not be reluctant in reporting any case of cruelty or bestiality which they witness within their vicinity, this will enable the law enforcement agencies function efficiently. 

  • Role of NGO’s

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) across the country play a foremost role in informing the general public about animal cruelty and bestiality laws and their duties. They should also rescue the animals who are victims.

Some of the NGO’s are:

  • PETA India
  • People for Animals India 
  • Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre (SGACC)
  • Visaka Society for the Protection and Care of Animals (VSPCA),etc.

RECOMMENDATIONS

India as a nation has recognized the importance of the issue and has opted to take steps to prevent such a barbaric crime. The provisions of the Act, even though being holistic in nature, its execution on the ground has been a quite a catastrophe. The Act lacks the mention of bestiality as a crime in itself, which has a deterrent effect on the laws in the country for the protection of animals. For that reason we propose the following suggestions:- 

  • It is of utmost importance to now recognize the status of animals as legal persons under the Indian Constitution, as currently animal is regarded as a property. This shows a disparity and an inferior positioning of these innocent beings in the society.
  • The Act lays down a punishment of mere Rs. 50/- , which prime facie is a slap on the wrist. A punishment should always correspond with the severity of the offence.
  • In order to curb the cases of cruelty against animals, there is a requirement of stringent laws with a higher degree of punishment. Therefore, there should an amendment in the act, which proposes the penalty to correspond to this brutal crime.
  • The officials should be trained in a manner to file cases under Sec 377 of IPC instead of Sec 11 of the act which has no mention of bestiality as an cognizable offence. 
  • Moreover, there lies a huge awareness gap, as the general public is not conscious about the prevalent laws. 

Therefore, a proper imposition of these liabilities by virtue of amendments to the PCA would ensure that the aims of the Act and the Constitution with respect to animal welfare might be eventually achieved in the future.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

“Let us all feel their silent cry of agony and let us all help that cry to be heard in the world.”

-Rukmini Devi Arundale, Animal Activist.

A moral duty exists upon us the humans, to understand our responsibility towards these innocent mute beings. Since humans have the capability for logical thought; a conscience and can judge in between right and wrong, they indebted to other beings. A moral and legal contemplation must be made to deal with dwindling civilization. Efficient penal provisions to discourage the offenders must be brought. We must not place them in an inferior position and should provide them adequate safeguards and rights, since it is our onus to do so.

There are failings in the animal welfare provisions of our country which we must combat. The recognition of animal rights and our corresponding duty to not only prevent any violation of such rights but also to protect their rights, paves a way for us to recognize our legal duty to base not only civil but also criminal liability. Animals cannot speak, but can you and I not speak for them and represent them? 

An animal’s moral status, be it sentient being or machine, inevitably determines how an animal will be viewed in the eyes of the law.

About the authors

Bismita Mohanty, Subham Samantray and Adarsh Das are 5th year students of BBA-LLB, SOA National Institute Of Law, SOA University.

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