India is one of the most bio-diverse regions of the world. It contains four of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots. Protection of animals is enshrined as a fundamental duty in the Indian Constitution. In addition, there exist several animal welfare legislations in India such as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 and the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 at the Central level that seek to provide them further protection.
The Constitution of India makes it the “duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for all living creatures.”
This Constitutional duty of animal protection is supplemented by the Directive Principle of State Policy under Article 48A that:
The State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.
Both the above constitutional provisions were introduced by the 42nd Amendment in 1976. While they are not directly enforceable in Indian courts, they lay down the groundwork for legislation, policies, and state directives in the furtherance of animal protection at the Central and State levels. Moreover, they may be enforced in courts by taking an expansive judicial interpretation and bringing them within the ambit of the Fundamental Right to Life and Liberty under Article 21 which is judicially enforceable.
When endeavoring to create further protections for marine ecosystems and the species that live there around the coastline of India, it is vital to first have a basic understanding of the laws that currently exist to safeguard these creatures. Below are the policies currently in existence in India to provide protection to the species we share this space with.