Here is something to cheer animal lovers. The Uttarakhand High Court has declared the animal kingdom, including birds and aquatic animals, as legal entities with distinct persona and corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.

The High Court passed this judgment in Nainital on Wednesday. A divisional bench of Justice Rajeev Sharma and Lok Pal Singh described Uttarakhand citizens as custodians who will work for the welfare of the animals.

Champawat-based social activist Narayan Dutt Bhatt had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in 2014. The plight of abandoned horses from Nepal, discarded in Indian side at Banbasa in district Champawat, forced the social worker to take up the issue.

Passing the judgment, Uttarakhand High Court’s said, “The entire animal kingdom including avian and aquatic (species) are declared as legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.”

The judgment comes almost a year after Uttarakhand High Court declared Ganga and Yamuna rivers as living entities.

Petitioner Narayan Dutt Bhatt said, “About 60-70 tongas (horse carriage) operate on the Indo-Nepal border. The animals face cruelty as they have no resting time and also fixed load. I filed this PIL and I am happy that now the operators will have to care their animals.”

The tongas operate from Mahendranagar (Nepal) to Banbasa (India) covering a distance of about 14 kilometres. The carriages are registered in Nepal. A single tonga often ferries a dozen passengers at any given trip. There is no proper stand for the tongas and no health check-up of the animal is conducted. “The local administration has started conducting medical test of the horses,” Bhatt adds.

The horses used in the service suffer from various kinds of illnesses and injuries, and are later abandoned. The petitioner is yet to get a copy of the High Court order.