New Delhi: Narayanan Prakash, a cat owner, was denied a vehicle pass to go purchase ‘Meo-Persian’ biscuits for his three cats. Concerned for the survival of his pets, he filed a writ petition in the Kerala high court, which has ruled in favour of the fortunate felines.
Justice Shaji P. Chaly held that the choice to rear pets was traceable to the fundamental right to privacy conferred under Article 21 of the Indian constitution.
Prakash had submitted that he is a vegetarian, and doesn’t cook non-vegetarian food at home. In a conversation with The Wire, he said, “They are addicted to these biscuits. They don’t take any other food, it is a delicious biscuit.”
His three cats are called Mookie, Kappi and Kunnikappi.
Mookie (meaning white cat), a white cat who is about five years old, recently underwent a spaying procedure where her uterus was removed. Pratheesh Narayanan, the son of N. Prakash, said to The Wire, “When Mookie was born, her mother died. So it was my father who took care of her till date. She had medical issues from the day she was born.” He talks about a recent bout of illness the cat had gone through, which required constant care and even being admitted into the hospital. “He spent a lot of money and time for Mookie alone,” his son says.
The second cat Kappi (meaning black cat) aged 7 or 8 years old, is a black cat and was born with five brothers and sisters. Six years ago, the neighbourhood cats went through a devastating bout of pan leukopenia, also known as feline distemper, a virus which took a toll on them all. Kappi’s sister succumbed to the disease and died. Kappi also contracted the illness, but made a valiant recovery.
“Her medical condition became so bad the doctors said she would not last one week,” said Narayanan.
With constant care and hydration, Kappi made such a miraculous recovery in two days that even the doctors were amazed, he added. Prakash however noted that Kappi emerged from the ordeal as a changed cat, and now is very quick to anger, but is also very childlike, and gets upset if she is left alone. As a result, Prakash spends as much time as he can with Kappi. However, in a heartwarming turn of events, Kappi also recently had two kittens, Kappachi and Manjima, pictured above with Prakash.
The third cat is called Kunnikappi (meaning small black cat) and is between 6 and 7 months old. Prakash says that he is in fine health and as such was not particularly worried about him.
He further said that the Cochin pet hospital from where he used to buy the biscuits was at a distance and the police had denied his request for an online pass.
In court, Prakash argued that animal feed and fodder has been listed as essential services in the guidelines issued by the Union home ministry.
The three cats have been raised on the biscuits ever since they were able to take solid food, and as such, going without the biscuits would have put Prakash in a difficult situation.
Justice Chaly noted that petitioner’s choice to remain vegetarian, not to cook non-vegetarian food in his home, rear cats, and purchase the feed for his cats were facets of the right to privacy.
“The choice of the petitioner not to cook non-vegetarian food is a well protected facet under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and he has no choice than to procure food from outside. These cluster of legal circumstances leads me to a sound conclusion that over and above the right to life conferred on the animals by the Apex Court in the judgment in Animal Welfare Board , every citizen has a right to enjoy his life and liberty conferred under Article 21 of the Constitution of India by having a choice of rearing pets. So much so, a citizen’s choice to rear pets is traceable to his fundamental right to privacy as recognised by the Apex Court in Puttaswamy’s case, which in turn is a facet of his right under Article 21,” the judgment reads.
The bench comprising Justices A.K. Jayasankaran Nambiar and Shaji P, Chaly relied on the Supreme Court judgment in Animal Welfare Board of India vs A Nagaraja, where the right to life of animals was recognised.
“The SC went ahead of merely safeguarding animal welfare, to recognising a right and dignity in animals to live lives free from cruelty,” the high court observed.
The bench held that the Supreme Court decision in Nagaraja (Supra), led to a reinterpretation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act while considering Article 51A(g) and (h) of the constitution, that encourage “compassion for living creatures” and “development of scientific temper and humanism”.
In a triumph for cat lovers everywhere, the court allowed Prakash to travel to purchase the cat biscuits while carrying a self-declaration, along with a copy of the high court order.
“While we are happy to have come to the aid of the felines in this case, we are also certain that our directions will help avert a “CATastrophe” in the petitioner’s home,” the judgment concludes.
“I liked that part of the judgement,” Prakash says. “It was very funny. Initially I was little frightened to argue before that bench. But when we started arguing it was very comfortable.”