Bye-laws barring keeping pets in apartments are illegal: Kerala HC

High Court of Kerala

Kochi: Bye-laws of resident associations preventing apartment owners or occupiers from keeping pets of their choice at home or accessing elevators and other common facilities are "illegal" and "unenforceable in law", Kerala High Court said on Tuesday.

The high court said that when Kerala announces itself to be 'God's Own Country', it cannot be seen denying just privileges to its animal inhabitants.

A bench of Justices A K Jayasankaran Nambiar and Gopinath P said time has come to "nudge" the citizens into respecting claims of other living beings who too "have rights in our shared ecosystem".

The high court said that "trajectory of animal rights jurisprudence in India has sadly been a retrograde one" as over the years we have moved from an eco-centric worldview -- where animals, like humans were seen as living beings containing a life force and therefore morally worthy -- to an anthropocentric one where humans alone are seen as morally worthy and privileged to enjoy nature's bounties.

The bench said that earlier religions like Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism believed that since our ancestors return in animal form, animals have to be treated with the respect that is due to humans.

In Islam, the words of the prophet state that animals should be killed only out of necessity and that doing otherwise is a sin, the court noted and added that the "anthropocentric shift was probably the result of over two centuries of British rule, and the Judeo-Christian concept of human dominion over animals that it brought with it".

The court said that the state and its institutions of governance "must take appropriate measures to inculcate a spirit of accommodation towards animals amongst our people, preferably by introducing animal awareness programmes at the school level in the state".

"We have no hesitation, therefore, to hold that those clauses in the bye-laws of resident associations, that seek to prevent owners/ occupiers of residential apartments from keeping pet animals of their choice in the residential apartments owned by them, or accessing the elevators and common facilities in the apartment buildings, are illegal, unconstitutional and unenforceable in law.

"Consequently, resident owners' associations and resident welfare associations shall desist from putting up notice boards and signposts prohibiting the keeping or entry of pets in their respective premises," the bench said.

The order came on a PIL by People for Animals (PFA) Trivandrum -- represented by advocate Bhanu Thilak -- which had challenged the bye-laws of various housing societies, apartment associations and RWAs' barring residents from keeping pets in their homes.

PFA Trivandrum, in its petition, had contended that such bye-laws were "illegal, arbitrary and unfair".

Allowing the plea, the high court said that such clauses "defeat the objectives of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act and the principles recognised under our Constitution, and have necessarily to be struck down as illegal and unconstitutional".

The court, however, said that the resident associations may stipulate reasonable conditions that must be adhered to by the owners/ residents of the individual apartments while keeping pets.

It said that the guidelines issued in February 2015 by the Animal Welfare Board of India with regard to pet dogs and pet owning residents could be adopted by the resident associations while stipulating conditions for keeping of pets in the apartment(s) concerned.

The high court directed its registry to send a copy of the judgement to the Chief Secretary of the state for taking necessary steps to ensure complaints regarding violation of citizens rights to keep pets receive immediate attention and resolution.

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