Supreme Court questions plea for ‘legal entity’ status to animals

This means bestowing on animals, by judicial direction, the capacity to sue and be sued in courts: CJI

Updated - September 09, 2020 10:23 pm IST

Published - September 09, 2020 10:22 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the Supreme Court of India. File

A view of the Supreme Court of India. File

The Supreme Court on Wednesday questioned a petition seeking “legal entity” status to the entire animal kingdom.

Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde said the status involved giving animals a “legal personality.” This means bestowing on animals, by judicial direction, the capacity to sue and be sued in courts of law.

“Animals already have the protection of the law. There are laws like the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, etc. But making them a legal entity is giving them the capacity to sue and be sued ... How is that possible?” Chief Justice Bobde asked petitioner-advocate Devesh Saxena in a virtual court hearing.

Mr. Saxena made an impassioned plea that animals are considered “property.”

“But they are not equals of humans. How can they be considered your equals?” the CJI persisted.

But Mr. Saxena argued that though not in the same rung as humans in the evolutionary ladder, animals do have soul, intellect, etc.

“By your logic then even trees need to be treated as equal entities,” Chief Justice Bobde replied.

The court said it would examine the point raised by Mr. Saxena about the insufficiency of punishment in animal protection laws.

“We will look into this point on punishment not being enough of a deterrent against hurting animals,” the CJI addressed Mr. Saxena.

Chief Justice Bobde, however, told Mr. Saxena not to set too much store in his plea for a judicial declaration that animals are legal entities.

To this, Mr. Saxena said he bowed down to the majesty of the court.

The Bench issued a notice on the petition. The Central government is the respondent in the case.

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