NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday said that authorities have no power under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act to confiscate animals from traders during pendency of cases under this law and gave a week’s ultimatum to the Centre to either amend the Act or suffer a stay on the 2017 Rules which allowed confiscation.
“The Section (in PCA Act) is clear. Only a person convicted under the Act (for causing cruelty to animals) can legally lose his animals. The (2017) Rules cannot run counter to the Act,” said a bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian while dealing with a petition filed by Delhibased Buffalo Traders’ Welfare Association.
The Association, through senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, brought out the conflict between the Act and the Rules. He said the Act mandated confiscation of animals from a transporter or owner only after he is convicted for causing cruelty to animals by a court of law, or had been previously convicted of such an offence.
However, Additional Solicitor General Jayant Sud said the Rules categorically provided for sending the animals to infirmaries or animal shelters if police found that these have been treated cruelly.
The bench said, “Animals are a source of livelihood for many. You (the government/ police) cannot confiscate the animals without the accused being convicted after a trial.” Then the bench gave the ultimatum — “Either you amend the law or we stay the operation of the Rules.” Sud sought a week’s time to get back with the Centre’s response. Lakhs of animals transported by traders in various states were waylaid by vigilante groups since the framing of the Rules in March 2017 and the authorities confiscated the animals.
The Supreme Court has made a pertinent observation. It seems that the PCA Act is being misused for other ends. The Centre must come up with an honest reply.
Section 29 of PCA Act provided that “if the owner of any animal is found guilty of any offence under this Act, the court upon his conviction thereof, may, in addition to any other punishment make an order that the animal with respect to which the offence was committed shall be forfeited to Government and may, further, make such order as to the disposal of the animal as it thinks fit under the circumstances”.
However, Rule 3 empowered the magistrate to direct the seized animals to be housed at an infirmary, pinjrapole/ Gaushala or such shelter home during the pendency of the litigation. Rule 5 empowered a magistrate to direct the accused or the owner to execute a bond at the time of handing over the animal to the infirmary.