stray dog menace
This judgement was given while the court was hearing a bunch of 193 petitions relating to attacks on people by stray animals. File photo

Victims of dogbites can claim Rs 10,000 for each tooth mark, rules Punjab and Haryana HC

Holding the state “primarily responsible” for cases involving stray dog bites, Punjab and Haryana high court said state has to pay compensation for injuries caused to people

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In a judgement that may have far-reaching consequences, the Punjab and Haryana high court has pinned the responsibility of attacks by stray animals such as dogs and cattle on the state and ruled that they shall have to pay compensation to victims.

The high court held the state “primarily responsible” and ruled that in cases involving dog bites, financial assistance of a minimum of ₹10,000 for each tooth mark and a minimum of ₹20,000 per 0.2 cm of wound where the flesh has been biten off have to be paid, said reports.

This judgement was given while the court was hearing a bunch of 193 petitions relating to attacks on people by stray animals. The court also directed the states of Punjab and Haryana, as well as the Union Territory of Chandigarh, to establish committees chaired by the deputy commissioners of respective districts to assess such compensation.

Stray dog attack menace

This judgement has come in the backdrop of growing concern over stray dog bites in the country. In September too, the Delhi high court voiced its concern over the menace of stray dog attacks on the roads. But, the issue got a lot of traction after the death of 49-year-old Parag Desai, executive director with Wagh Bakri Tea Group, in October. Desai had died of haemorrhage after he suffered a fall when he was being chased by stray dogs outside his house in Ahmedabad.

Soon after the tragic incident, there was a demand that the government should take urgent steps to tackle the stray dog problem. People on social media pointed to multiple cases of deaths and injuries to adults and children from animal attacks. It has become a sensitive issue even leading to number of cases of cruelty towards animals.

States have to share burden

During the hearing in Punjab and Haryana court, a bench led by Justice Vinod S Bhardwaj found that a rising number of fatalities and an alarming rate of stray animals on roads—a direct outcome of state policy implementation without effect assessment and infrastructure building—have begun to take a toll on human life.

The judge observed that it is essential that the state should now share the burden and shoulder the responsibility.

Pointing out that despite such a large number of cases are being reported and even brought before the courts, the state has shown no inclination to address the issue. “They have chosen to look the other way, as people suffer injuries every day and underplay the magnitude of the problem by underrecording the incidents. The denial of the existence of a problem does not redress the problem but only escalates the agony of the citizen," he added.

"The State shall be primarily responsible to pay compensation with a right to recover the same from the defaulting Agencies/ Instrumentalities of the State and/or the private person, if any," the high court said in its order.

The award shall be passed by the committees within a period of four months of the claims being filed before it along with the requisite documents, said the court.

Polarising issue

The issue of combating stray dog menace has become an very polarising subject in the country. Before 2001, municipal authorities could euthanise stray dogs to keep public places safe. But after the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules came into existence a separate category called "street dogs" was created. These dogs were to be sterilised and immunised by "participation of animal welfare organizations, private individuals and the local authority". But lack of funds and local government support, none of these programmes have taken off.

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