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In India, you may end up in jail for killing a mouse

May 10, 2011
You may end up in jail for killing a mouse

HYDERABAD: Punishment for causing the death of a person in an accident is an imprisonment of up to two years. That is as per IPC section 304 (A).

But kill a mouse or even injure it and you will have to suffer imprisonment for up to five years. Besides this, you may end up coughing up Rs one lakh as fine.

It may sound strange. But the scientific community involved in research is in jitters as the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) has come up with a draft Animal Welfare Act, 2011 which has listed out punishment for not taking proper care of experimental animals. Experimental animals may include anything -- mouse, rabbits, monkeys, etc.

More than 500 institutions, including biomedical research centres, pharma companies, universities and scientific institutions under the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) make use of experimental animals.

Realising how severely the provisions of the proposed Animal Welfare Act, 2011 could hamper research in the country, the ICMR has urgently called for a meeting of its scientists on May 11. The issue is also proposed to be taken up with Union minister for environment Jairam Ramesh.

In a way the ICMR is actually reacting late to the proposed new law as the AWBI had actually given March 20, 2011 as the last date for receiving objections to the new Act.

The scientific community is, however, seething with anger as the draft has not even been circulated among the laboratories or research institutions for their comments. The National Centre for Laboratory Animal Sciences ( NCLAS) here is the only centre which supplies animals to institutions all over the country for experimental purposes.

The scientific community has reason to be upset as the proposed provisions call for stiffer punishment for causing pain to animals.

Although no experimental animal is hurt intentionally during research, if the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) feels that the treatment being meted out to an animal could be hurting it, a scientist or a Ph D student involved in the research could be booked.

A number of pharmaceutical companies also carry out research for developing drugs using experimental animals and the proposed penalty clause would affect the researchers.

It is learnt that the Indian National Science Academy (INSA) has also objected to the new provisions proposed by the AWBI.

According to the provisions, for the first offence of ill-treating an experimental animal, the fine can be from Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000 with an imprisonment of one to three years or both.

However, if the offence is repeated, the fine will be Rs 70,000 to Rs one lakh and the imprisonment will be from two to five years.

"Quite naturally, the scientific community is worked up about this. The matter will be taken up seriously," a scientist said.

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