BREAKING! Uttarakhand HC declares “Entire Animal Kingdom” as legal entity – a state in India has made a groundbreaking ruling that grants rights to all animals and legally makes people stewards of protection for animals!

The entire animal kingdom including avian and aquatic are declared as legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person. All the citizens throughout the State of Uttarakhand are hereby declared persons in loco parentis as the human face for the welfare/protection of animals”.

They can’t be treated merely as “property”, the bench added.

This is an extract of the unique ruling of a Division Bench Uttarakhand Head Court.

NB: What does “legal person” mean?

In common law jurisprudence, there are two types of persons – natural persons or human beings and juristic or legal persons. A legal person is any subject other than a human being to which the law attributes personality. Legal persons are all entities capable of being right-and-duty-bearing units: for the purpose of jurisprudence, a person is any entity to which rights and duties may be attributed. Explaining what a legal entity means, the HC said, “The entity acts like a natural person but only through a designated person, whose acts are processed within the ambit of law”. This means the animal kingdom could be represented by a custodian.

The court also declared all Uttarakhand natives the guardians of animals and endowed them with the duty to ensure their protection.

Although this ruling needs further ratification by the National Supreme Court before officially becoming law, it still represents a crucial step for the affirmation of animal rights both at the national and international level.

However, the court regrets the fact that, unfortunately,

There is no international agreement that ensures the welfare and protection of animals. The United Nations, all these years, safeguarded only the rights of human beings, not the rights of other species like animals, ignoring the fact that many of them, including bulls, are sacrificing their lives to alleviate human suffering, combating diseases and as food for human consumption. International community should hang their head in shame, for not recognising their rights all these ages, a species which served the humanity from the time of Adam and Eve. Of course, there has been a slow but observable shift from the anthropocentric approach to a more nature’s rights centric approach in international environmental law, animal welfare laws, etc.

The order came on a public interest lawsuit seeking improved rights for horses and mules who pull carts across the India-Nepal border through Banbasa and are reportedly being abused while doing so.

The ruling also issued a series of directions to prevent cruelty against animals.

  • The judges call on the State Government to ensure the medical examination of all the animals including horses entering from Nepal to India as well as horses moving from Indian border to Nepal to check infectious and contagious diseases by setting the veterinary check-posts on the border.
  • Furthermore, the division bench also gives directions ranging from the amount of load allowed to be pulled by various animals in accordance with the kind of carriage being pulled to the amount of riders per carriage. It also banned the use of any “sharp equipment” throughout the state, “to avoid bruises, swelling, abrasions or severe pain” to animals.
  • Also, all veterinary doctors across Uttarakhand must treat the animals brought to them by the citizens of the state. If the animal cannot be brought to the doctor, then the doctor must “personally visit and attend the stray cattle or animal without delay”.
  • The court order also gave directions on transportation of animals. “No goods vehicle shall carry more than six cattle. Each goods vehicle shall be provided with one attendant… The animals shall be transported on foot only when the temperature is between 12 degrees Celsius to 30 degrees Celsius”.
  • The Court also directed the State Government to ensure that if 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.
  • The court also went into the aspect of animal safety, highlighting 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.

In their ruling, the Court, headed by Hon’ble Rajiv Sharma and Hon’ble Lok Pal Singh, pulls a quote from Isha Upanishad, the closing chapter of the Yajur-Veda:

The universe along with its creatures belongs to the land. No creature is superior to any other. Human beings should not be above nature. Let no one species encroach over the rights and privileges of other species.”

Animal activists must celebrate this historic ruling, in the hope that Uttarakhand Head Court ideas serve as inspiration for the rest of the world.

OIPA recognizes India’s efforts to enhance animal welfare and protection. Earlier this year, India banned the import of seal fur and skin and in March 2017 the same Rajiv Sharma had also declared the rivers Ganga and Yamuna, all their tributaries, streams, every natural water flowing with flow continuously or intermittently of these rivers, as juristic/legal persons/living entities having the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.

Read more about OIPA India here