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The Uttarakhand high court on Wednesday declared the entire animal kingdom, including birds and aquatic animals, as a legal entity having rights of a “living person”, a year after according similar right to Ganga and Yamuna that was subsequently stayed by the Supreme Court.

A division bench of justices Rajiv Sharma and Lok Pal Singh said that in the past, various courts have given similar rights to corporations, Hindu gods, holy scriptures and rivers and in order to ensure the greater good and that to ensure the “greater welfare” of animals they need to be conferred with the status of “legal entity/legal person”.

They can’t be treated merely as “property”, the bench added.

Uttarakhand’s acting chief wildlife warden, Rajeev Bhartari, said he cannot comment on the judgment till he examines it. Principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF) Jai Raj welcomed it.

Explaining what a legal entity means, the HC said, “The entity acts like a natural person but only through a designated person, whose acts are processed within the ambit of law”. This means the animal kingdom could be represented by a custodian.

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