The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to examine a law that discriminates between the crimes of killing a stray animal and a pet. While killing a stray brings a fine of Rs 50, an individual could face up to five years in jail for a similar crime against a pet, The Times of India reported.

The court was hearing a petition by an animal rights group, whose counsel Prashant Bhushan argued that "it does not behove a civilized society that the only punishment for hacking a puppy to death is a paltry Rs 50 fine and no jail term. It flies in the face of our Constitutional duty under Article 51A (g), which enjoins us to have compassion for all living beings and not just humans."

Under the Indian Penal Code, offences against animals are treated as damage to property or assets. Under Section 428 of the IPC, a person can face a two-year jail term for killing or maiming a pet animal worth Rs 10 and a five-year jail term if the pet animal was worth Rs 50 or more. However, as strays belong to no one, they cannot be considered an asset and are thus not covered under the law.

The petitioners argued that the unfair and antiquated law needed revision. The bench issued a notice to the Centre seeking a reply on the matter of harsher punishments for cruelty to animals.

In March, a Bengaluru woman was arrested for allegedly killing eight stray puppies, which she claimed was to "teach the mother dog a lesson". The incident caused widespread debate on social media on the rights of stray animals.