The Uttarakhand High Court on Wednesday declared the animal kingdom, including avian and aquatic animals, legal entities with distinct persona and corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.

The court was hearing a petition seeking directions to restrict the movement of horse carts between Nepal and India, through the Champawat district. The plea demanded that the horses be vaccinated and checked for infections before they enter the Indian territory.

“The corporations, Hindu idols, holy scriptures, rivers have been declared legal entities and thus, in order to protect and promote greater welfare of animals including avian and aquatic, animals are required to be conferred with the status of legal entity/ legal person,” the High Court bench observed, according to Live Law. “The animals should be healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, safe, able to express innate behaviour without pain, fear and distress. They are entitled to justice.”

They cannot be treated merely as “property”, the bench said.

The court also declared all Uttarakhand natives the guardians of animals, directing them to ensure protection and welfare of animals, according to PTI. The court gave directions on the amount of load allowed to be pulled by animals depending on the kind of carriage being pulled and the number of riders per carriage.

The division bench said that animal-drawn carriages have to be given Right of Way over other vehicles.

The court also directed the state government to ensure that people do not keep animals in harnesses for drawing vehicles if the temperature exceeds 37 degree Celsius or drops below 5 degree Celsius.

In March 2017, the Uttarakhand High Court had declared River Ganga India’s first living entity.