A decision to ban pets from the Resident Medical Officer (RMO) hostel has sparked outrage among resident doctors and pet guardians at the North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS).
The notice in question, issued by the warden in charge of the RMO hostel on September 6, was based on an instruction from the institute's director. It explicitly stated that all resident doctors residing in the hostel were prohibited from keeping pets within their respective rooms.
The notice further warned that residents had a maximum of three days to relocate their pets. Those found in violation of this order would face stern actions, including a penalty of Rs 10,000. Repeat offenders risked eviction from the hostel.
Pet guardians and doctors affiliated with NEIGRIHMS have banded together to petition the institute's director, urging a reevaluation of the ban on pet animals within the RMO hostel. Additionally, they reached out to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India for guidance on navigating this situation.
PETA India has taken note of the notice and is expected to send a formal letter to the NEIGRIHMS director, requesting the withdrawal of the ban.
The resident doctors have voiced their objections to the notice on multiple fronts, citing both humanitarian concerns and legal grounds. They emphasized that as medical professionals, they are required to be available round-the-clock in case of emergencies, necessitating their residence on the campus. Therefore, being forced to abandon their pets to comply with the directive is seen as unjust and impractical.
Drawing an analogy, one resident doctor asked if it would be ethical to ask parents to abandon their children to retain their homes. Moreover, they noted that there have been no prior rules or bylaws prohibiting staff or faculty members from having pets in their quarters, making the imposition of new rules seem arbitrary and cruel.
The doctors argued that forcing them to part with their pets would potentially violate the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960. They referred to an advisory from the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and various court judgments across the country that underscore the rights and welfare of companion animals.
Furthermore, the doctors invoked Article 51A(g) of the Constitution of India, which places a fundamental duty on citizens to show compassion towards living creatures. They argued that this extends to companion animals kept by residents of any housing society.
Citing the Supreme Court's judgment in the AWBI versus A Nagaraja case, they stressed that all animals have a fundamental right to live with honor and dignity, free from cruelty. They firmly stated that any ban on keeping pets or restricting their use of common areas within the institute would contradict the principles established by the apex court in that landmark case.
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