Q. Can people who feed animals in their area be stopped by RWAs or Building Societies or their neighbours under the law?
A. Article 51A of the Constitution of India speaks about the duties of every citizen of India. One of these duties includes having compassion for living creatures. So the animal lover is protected under the Constitution.
Article 19 of the Constitution of India deals with the right to freedom and in this freedom comes the right to profession, occupation, trade and business. This means that every citizen has the right to occupation and if someone has taken up the caring of animals as his occupation, it is legal and he has every right to carry on with his occupation.
Article 21 of the Constitution of India states the right to personal life and liberty. This is a very vast right. If someone wants to feed and provide shelter to dogs, he is at liberty to do so. He has the same right to liberty that the law provides to every citizen of India.
Section 503 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 provides that intimidation is a cognizable criminal offence. Anyone who threatens or intimidates any person taking care of dogs, is liable for Criminal Intimidation under Section 503 of the Indian Penal Code and can be arrested without a warrant.
But, above every other law and right, there is a natural right which is a universal right, inherent in the nature of ethics and contingent on human actions or beliefs. It is the right that exists even when it is not enforced by government or society as a whole. It is the right of the individual and considered beyond the authority of a government or international body to dismiss. Therefore, if there are any rights at all, there must be right to liberty, for all others depend on this. And the choice of loving, caring, feeding and giving shelter to dogs is the natural right of any individual.
In a judgment passed by the Delhi Court, it has been stated that the Animal Welfare Board of India and the municipal authorities have, in their guidelines, specified the problem often faced by individuals and families who care for and feed stray animals. The Court has said that it is necessary to bring on record that those individuals and families who care for stray animals are doing a great service to humanity as they are acting in the aid and assistance of municipal authorities by providing these animals with food and shelter and also by getting them vaccinated and sterilized. Without the assistance of such persons no local municipal authority can successfully carry out its ABC programme. The Court has proceeded to say that the local police and the RWAs are under obligation not only to encourage such adoption but also to ensure protection to such persons who take care of these animals specifically community or neighbourhood dogs so that they are not subjected to any kind of harassment.
The Court has also reiterated that every individual has the right to live his life in the manner he wants and it is necessary that the society and the community recognizes this.