Punjab & Haryana High Court declares all animals as ‘legal persons’ or entity to animals

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has accorded the status of “legal person or entity” to animals in Haryana, granting them the “corresponding rights, duties, and liabilities of a living person”. The verdict comes nearly a year after Uttarakhand High Court passed a similar order “to protect and promote greater welfare of animals”.

The order was passed in a case where the Court was informed that 29 cows were packed in a cruel manner while being transported from Uttar Pradesh to Haryana. In response, Justice Sharma’s order emphasizes that animals cannot be reduced to mere property. Striking an empathetic note, Justice Sharma appeals in his order.

“The corporations, Hindu idols, holy scriptures, rivers have been declared legal entities and thus, in order to protect and promote greater welfare of animals including avian and aquatic, animals are required to be conferred with the status of legal entity/ legal person”.

This includes a ban in using animals to pull vehicles in extreme weather, limits on loads and the number of people that animals are made to carry, limits on the distances that an animal is made to walk at a stretch, instructions on how to tether an animal to the vehicle it is made to pull and a ban on the use of spike sticks, harness and other sharp instruments to avoid injuring the animal.

The list of directions issued by Justice Sharma in this order are as follows:-

1. The State Government is directed to ensure that the draught animals do not carry loads exceeding prescribed limits while driving vehicles.
2. The State Government is directed to ensure that no animal shall carry weight or load in excess of the weights prescribed.
3. The weight should be halved if the route traveled involves an ascent exceeding the limit prescribed by the Court.
4. No more than four persons, excluding the driver and children below 6 years of age, are allowed to ride an animal-drawn vehicle.
5. No person is permitted to keep or cause to be kept in harness any animal used for the purpose of drawing vehicles where the temperature exceeds 37°C (99°F) during the period between 11 am and 4 pm. in summers and when the temperature is below 5°C between 5 am to 7 am and between 10 pm to 5 am in winter season.
6. The use of spike stick or bit, harness or yoke with spikes, knobs or projections or any other sharp tackle or equipment is banned throughout the State of Haryana to avoid bruises, swelling, abrasions or severe pain to the animal.
7. All the Municipal Bodies shall issue certificates of the unladen weight of vehicles to avoid cruelty to animals.

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