Animals have equal rights as humans, says Uttarakhand high court

NAINITAL: Uttarakhand high court on Wednesday while hearing a petition filed for the protection and welfare of animals declared “all members of the animal kingdom including birds and aquatic life have similar rights as humans” and ordained animals throughout the state should be treated as “legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.” The division bench of justices Rajiv Sharma and Lok Pal Singh further named “citizens throughout Uttarakhand persons in loco parentis as the human face for the welfare/protection of the animals.”

The court directed the state government to constitute societies for prevention of cruelty to animals in each district and to appoint infirmaries for the treatment and care of animals. The HC in its 57-page order banned use of “spike stick or bit, harness or yoke with spikes, knobs or projections or any other sharp tackle or equipment” throughout the state to “avoid bruises, swelling, abrasions or severe pain to animals.”
The court directed the state government to “enforce the provisions of the Prevention and Control of Infectious and Contagious Diseases in Animals Act, 2009 to prevent the animals from infectious and contagious diseases” and to appoint veterinary officers “as per Section 3 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious and Contagious Diseases in Animals Act, 2009.”
The judges cited in their order several articles as well as books like the Isha Upanishad, which they said dwell on the principle of equality of all species. They also cited a Supreme Court judgment, which had held that an animal, too, has honour and dignity which it cannot be arbitrarily deprived of and its rights and privacy have to be respected and protected from unlawful attacks.

Notably, the Uttarakhand HC had in March last year in a similar order declared rivers Ganga and Yamuna as legal entities but the order was stayed by the Supreme Court three months later.
The HC order on Wednesday came while hearing a public interest litigation filed by Narayan Dutt Bhatt, a resident of Banbasa in Champawat district near the India-Nepal border. The petitioner had sought to restrict the movement of horse carts/tongas between Nepal and India stating cruelty on horses and mules used in the carts.

The court ordered the nagar panchayat, Banbasa to “regulate the plying of horse carts/tongas from Banbasa to Nepal by issuing licenses to the owners by charging reasonable fee within one month and to ensure the medical examination of these animals.” The court further directed the state government to ensure that “no person in charge of any vehicle drawn by any animal allows more than four persons, excluding the driver and children below 6 years to ride the vehicle” and to ensure that “in any area where the temperature exceeds 37°C 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, no animal is used for the purpose of drawing vehicles.” All the municipal bodies shall issue certificates of unladen weight of vehicles to avoid cruelty to animals,” the judges said.

The court stated that since the carts driven by animals have no mechanical devices, they should be given the “Right of Way” and all the police officers throughout the state should ensure compliance of the rule.
“All the municipal bodies throughout the state are directed to provide shelter of suitable size to horses, bullocks and camels driving vehicles,” the judges stipulated.

In further directions, the division bench directed the vice-chancellor of the GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar to constitute a committee presided by the head of the department of veterinary sciences and two seniormost professors to undertake research to find out within twelve weeks whether the maximum weight prescribed under law in Prevention of Cruelty to Draught and Pack Animals Rules, 1965 is reasonable or not. The bench taking note of other inconveniences caused to the animals also ordered that no animal shall be transported on foot beyond the period specified in Rule 12 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals 


  1. Animals have equal rights as humans, says Uttarakhand high court