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IN RE BRUNO CASE: A ‘VIRAL’ NOTE ON EMOTIONS AND REALITY

Author: Vanshika Sharma, LL.M. from Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai


Introduction

The Indian Constitution makes animal protection a fundamental duty, and there are several animal welfare laws in place in India, including the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960(PCA) and the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 at the federal level, as well as cattle protection and cow slaughter prohibition laws at the state level. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860 is the country's official criminal code, covering all aspects of criminal law. All acts of cruelty, such as murdering, poisoning, maiming, or rendering animals useless, are punishable under sections 428 and 429 of the IPC. When the Bruno Case popped up into media highlights, every citizen’s heart was crying for that deceased dog. India’s animal laws have been a matter of grave concern. The tussle between cow slaughter and religion has always been on the doorsteps of the judiciary. The judiciary has although dealt with these matters at priority due to popular concerns. Let us shift our sights to the less talked about portion of cruelty to animals in legal aspects. Apart from this several specific laws are also there like torts, constitutional law etc. that give further force to animal protection in India.


In Re Bruno: Factual Analysis

Bruno was killed on Adimalathura beach on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram by three males who jumped on the labrador resting near the boat owned by Sunil, one of the three accused and started pounding it. They hit the dog with a broad stick, then hung it on the boat with a fishing hook and continued pouring blows till it seemed dead.It was reported by the Police that the accused had previous tiffs with the dog’s owner Christuraj over the dog urinating in their vessel at least one time. It is unclear where Christuraj was when the dog was beaten. A witness recorded the incident on his phone and afterwards shared it with Christuraj, who published it on social media. As per the New Indian Express, the video shows the minors hanging the dog by its neck to the hook of fishing bait in a boat and beating the animal using a stick. Later, the dog was thrown into the sea. The incident is believed to have occurred three days ago.According to local sources, the police did not initially respond to his complaint. The Chapter on People for Animals of Thiruvananthapuram came about the incident and an FIR was recorded. The widely circulated video became a one-day point of rage and upset at Bruno’s inhuman treatment, Justice JayasankaranNambiar wrote a letter to Chief Justice S Manikumar. This letter was later treated as a suomoto petition in the Hon’ble Kerala High Court. A direction was issued to the Registry to rename the writ petition as “In Re: Bruno (Suo Moto Public Interest Litigation Proceedings in the matter of executive and legislative inaction of the State Government in the matter of Protection of Animal Rights)”, as a tribute to the hapless dog that succumbed to acts of human cruelty, and disturbed by which the Court had initiated the proceedings.


Is Law Enough?

The Constitutional duty of animal protection is appended by the Directive Principle of State Policy under Article 48A which says that the State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.Article 51A (g) obliges every citizen to protect and improve natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures. Article 51A (h) obliges us to develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform. Item 14 of the State List in VII Schedule provides that the States have the power to “preserve, protect and improve stock and prevent animal diseases and enforce veterinary training and practice.” Whereas, in the Concurrent List, both the Centre and the States have the power to legislate on “Prevention of cruelty to animals” (Item 17) and “Protection of wild animals and birds” (Item 17B).The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 gives several variants of forms of cruelty under Section 11. The two provisions of Section 11, PCA, 1960 that follows In Re Bruno most coherently –

  • Beating, kicking, overriding, overloading, torturing and causing unnecessary pain to any animal. (Section 11 (a)).

  • Keeping an animal on an unreasonably heavy or short chain for an unreasonable period of time. (Section 11(f)).

“Frighteningly, frequent have been the instances of cruelty to animals reported in the media in the last couple of years that we believe that the State must now resort to affirmative action to alleviate their misery”, the Court observed In Re Bruno case.


Law is Falling Prey to Administrative Muddle

The mandate of Animal Welfare Board is to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals, in terms of the provision of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960. Keeping in view the instant case, the State Animal Welfare Board of Kerala counsel Mr. M.R. Hariraj gave the reference to Geeta Seshamani v. Union of India[i], for its faulty working in the facet of animal welfare in state. There were also specific directions regarding veterinary position and infrastructural facilities in the State.


Broken Wheels of Criminal Justice

The phrase ‘wheels of criminal justice’ with regard to prevention of cruelty to animals was specifically mentioned in the instant case. Criminal justice studies dissipate the notions of deterring crimes through increased penalties and stringent criminal laws. In March 2021, the proposed amendment to PCA dealt with increase of penalty against animal cruelty from Rs. 50 to Rs. 75,000 or “three times the cost of the animal” besides up to five years’ imprisonment. This increased a rage among the ‘poachers’ and ‘tribes’ whose life depended upon animals per se. The illegality of killing can be ascertained if it falls under the permit of PCA, but the police’s selective criminalization has also caused marginalization. The intent of legislature behind the PCA is more of sensitization rather than penalty. It is unlike any criminal law because it deals with an entity other than human, the ones whose voice if not heard, have the potential to collapse natural system. Bruno is not the only case in recent times, the headlining case of Karnataka ‘Stray Dog Shot Dead’ , emerged after Bruno is a horrifying example of psychopathic criminal mentality. Therefore, higher penalties may be unlikely lower the cruel incidents of animal murder and puppy violence.


Conclusion

“Although the Directive Principles and the Fundamental Duties are not legally enforceable, they are to be taken note of by the State while making laws.” (In Re Bruno)

The case made a reference to Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja&Ors[ii], animals are now seen to have certain rights corresponding to the duties imposed by the Constitution of India. Justice Nambiar, being an instrumental authority in instant case said that the Animal Welfare Bills of 2011 and 2014 should not remain dead letters. This shows that the judiciary is actively promoting State and Center to provide more animal welfare laws into implementation as soon as possible. The PCA provides five certain rights to animals including freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition; fear and distress; physical and thermal discomfort; pain injury and disease and expression of normal patterns of behaviour. Some suggestive measures include :

  • Strict actions against persons who inflict torture to animals and themselves post it on social media platforms to gain popularity.

  • Sensitization of people especially the youth in schools through seminars,programmes etc.

  • Stray animals should be given foster care by making smaller units at each district, this can be done with the collaboration of several NGOs.

  • There should be a non-stigmatizing anonymous entertainment of complaint/information/report to the whistle blowers because in certain cases the rage and aggression of the culprit leads to harmful consequences.

It is evident that torture and cruelty originates from a certain mental state. The intention of a person inflicting them is quite clear from the facts and circumstances of each case. On one hand the killing of animal in private defence would not constitute criminal liability, on the other any sort of mutilation, harassment, killing, torturing of animals shall amount to cruelty once proved on investigation. The onus of proof then lies on the accused to defend himself from the charge. The offenses prescribed under Section 11 of PCA are of bailable nature. They were charged under Section 429 of IPC in the instant case which pertains to intentional killing of animal that costs more than Rs. 50. The accused invoked bail In Re Bruno, the 17-year-old youth in connection with the case will be dealt by Juvenile Justice Board. The laws lack deterrence and exemplar justice.

[i](2008) 17 SCC 55 [ii]2014 (7) SCC 547