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Cattle trespass is a very prevalent issue, especially in a country like India, which has been an agricultural land for a long time. The practice of shepherds and herdsmen taking their herd for grazing and even many farmers sheltering cattle in stables is common in many places of the country. Since, there were no strict laws to define the offences and impose definite punishments which could have caused major issues regarding the liability of damages in such acts of trespass. Hence, there was the need for a statute that would help in giving clarity to the laws, that would govern such acts of trespass and would also help in providing justice to the aggrieved person.

The objective of this Act is to frame rule for determining animal liability and includes all animals that are considered to be “cattle”. If the cattle of a person go stray and enter and damage another person’s land then this is considered to be cattle trespass and the liability of any damage would be on the owner of the cattle. Basically, trespass is a tort that deals with the unlawful entry of a person or animal into the property of a person. This is an offence as no one but the owner and ones associated with him/her have the legal right to do so. When animals enter the property of a person, the same offence of trespass is caused but naturally, the liability is shifted to the owner of the animal.

The Cattle Trespass Act, 1871 was brought out as an attempt to bring together all the previous laws that dealt with cattle trespass. Let us understand which animals come under the ambit of the term ‘cattle’. There are 17 different animals that come under the definition of cattle which is defined under Section 3 of the Act. These basically include elephants, camels, buffalos, horses, pigs, asses, sheep, lamb, etc. and their offsprings as well.

Since animals come under movable property under the General Clauses Act, 1897, the owner of the animals have a right to sue for damages if they are injured and it can be said that this right would also impose upon them the liability if any damage is caused by them. With that being said, it is also a duty of the legislature under Schedule 7 (State List- 16th entry) to prevent cattle trespass and make provisions for pounds where any detained animals could be kept until the owner takes possession of them. Therefore, in 1871 a statute for laws that govern cattle trespass was enacted.

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