Cows and the law: India

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The legal position

Cow slaughter allowed in most NE states, Bengal , April 3, 2017: The Times of India

What does the constitution say on cow slaughter?

In the Directive Principles of State Policy , which are guidelines for framing laws by the government, the Constitution mentions cow slaughter. Article 48 of the Constitution which is a directive principle on organisation of agriculture and animal husbandry says that states shall organise agriculture and animal husbandry in modern scientific lines, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds and prohibiting the slaughter of cows, calves and other milch and draught cattle.

Does it mean that it is unconstitutional to slaughter cows in India?

No. The parliament and state legislatures derive their power to legislate under article 246 of the constitution read with schedule 7, which divides the power of legislation of central and state legislatures.There is a union, state and concurrent list of legislative powers. The preservation, protection and improvement of stock and prevention of animal disease, veterinary training and practice comes under the state list. This means that individual states have exclusive powers to make laws regarding slaughter of cattle under their jurisdiction.

Which states allow cow slaughter?

With a few exceptions, cow slaughter is banned in most of the states. There are no restrictions in Kerala, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim. Although there are different state level legislations against cow slaughter, there is no uniformity of the law. In Manipur, there is a 1939 decree passed by the king at that time, which pre scribes prosecution for cow slaughter. De spite this, beef is widely consumed in the state. Laws in oth er states are different with some allowing slaughter of old or diseased animals.The punishments for violating the bans are also differ from state to state.

Is it illegal to consume beef in states that have banned cow slaughter?

It varies from state to state.For instance, beef can be imported in sealed con tainers to be served to foreigners in Uttar Pradesh.Similarly, in 2016 the Bombay high court had ruled that the Maharashtra government's ban on slaughter of beef in the state doesn't mean that people couldn't consume meat imported from other states.On the other hand, there is a complete ban in states like Haryana and Delhi.

What does the Supreme Court say on cow slaughter?

The apex court has given contradictory rulings on cow slaughter. In a 1958 case, where a five judge bench led by then Chief Justice of India SR Das was deciding the constitutionality of cattle slaughter bans in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, it ruled that cattle -except cows of all ages and calves --not capable of milch and draught can be slaughtered. It stated that keeping cattle with no economic use would be a burden on the nation's cattle feed. It also observed that this meat is cheaper than mutton and hence could be used by poor for food. In 2005, a seven-judge bench headed by then Chief Justice of India RC Lahoti ruled against this judgment observing that nutrition can not necessarily be associated with non-vegetarian food and that too originating from slaughtering cow and its progeny .

Laws on cow slaughter

The Hindu, May 2, 2015

Ban on cow slaughter in India, state-wise; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, May 7, 2016

The Bombay High Court upheld the Maharashtra government’s decision to ban sale and consumption of beef in the State. The move has triggered debates across India on vegetarianism, tolerance towards other foods and also whether the State has a right to tell people what they should eat. A look at the debate surrouding the ban and also the consumption of the meat in other parts of the country.

Fully banned

Andhra Pradesh, Telangana , Bihar, Chattisgarh, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, J&K, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand

Allowed with slaughter certificates

Assam, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal

No ban

Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala (animals above 10 years), Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura

Bull slaughter: Maharashtra

Maha extends cow slaughter ban to bulls

Mohammed Wajihuddin & Priyanka Kakodkar The Times of India Mar 04 2015

The state-wise legal position regarding the slaughter or sale of beef in India
Ban on slaughter, State-wise; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, November 17, 2015
States in which cow slaughter is allowed with certain conditions ; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, November 17, 2015

Law Violators Will Face 5-Yr Jail, Rs 10k Fine

Beef-steak and beef chilli fry are going to be off the menus in this world city with Maharashtra's new law which extends the existing ban on cow slaughter to bulls and bullocks.This means that across the state only buffalo meat can be eaten or served, whether it is in the privacy of your home or in a fivestar hotel. Those who violate the law face up to five years in jail and fines up to Rs 10,000.

The fine print of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act 1995, which received presidential assent this week, shows just how stringent the ban is. It prohibits the very possession of these meats. Their import and export is banned. So is the transport, sale or purchase of cows, bulls and bullocks for the purpose of slaughter.

Beef is priced at just half the rate of mutton and is the most affordable red meat. It enjoys a large market with roughly 9 lakh kilograms consumed in the city daily .Of this roughly 80% is beef and 20% is buffalo meat, beef traders say . Around 450 large animals are slaughtered daily at the Deonar abbatoir in the city.

The state contributes around 25% to the country's beef and buffalo meat market. Less beef in the market could drive up prices of mutton and chicken, traders say .

Maharashtra had banned the slaughter of cows and calves in 1976. The new law extends the ban to bulls and bullocks. It only excludes female buffaloes and their calves. Several states have already enacted similar laws.

With the “protection of cows and their progeny“ on the BJP's manifesto, the Devendra Fadnavis government actively pushed to get the law enacted. It had been passed by the Maharashtra assembly 19 years ago and was awaiting presidential assent.

2015: Haryana doubles punishment

The Times of India, Nov 13 2015

Sukhbir Siwach

Prez clears Haryana's anti-beef bill

Almost eight months after the Haryana assembly cleared a bill against cow slaughter, it has finally got the President's assent.The law carries a provision of up to 10 years' jail term for offenders. The state assembly had in March proposed doubling the current jail term of five years for those found involved in cow slaughter. The bill has also proposed a fine up to Rs 1 lakh for cow slaughter apart from jail term.

2017/ 14-year jail in Gujarat

Guj to punish cow slaughter with 14-yr jail, April 1, 2017: The Times of India

Gujarat has adopted the toughest law against cow slaughter in the country . From now, the crime will be punishable with a 14year jail term.

The state government cleared the Gujarat Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill, 2017, which raises the maximum jail sentence from the current 3-7 years to 14 years for cow slaughter.

It also carries a provision of fine of up to Rs 5 lakh and not less than Rs 1 lakh.

The bill was passed by a majority vote in the absence of opposition members in the assembly but in the presence of many saffron-clad sadhus in the public gallery. A top official who was part of the team which drafted the bill told TOI, “It (cow slaughter) will invite a sentence of life term of a maximum of 14 years.“

Minister of state for home Pradeepsinh Jadeja said, “During this auspicious occasion of Chaitra Navratri, the government, on suggestions of several sadhu-sants, has made amendments to the Gujarat Animal Protection (Amendment) Act, 2011. This is the harshest law in the country , which was required to save our religion, culture, economy and environment.“ The bill, seen as an attempt to consolidate Hindu votes ahead of the 2017 assembly polls, makes all offences under the act cognisable and non-bailable. Jadeja added, “Shedding of even a single drop of cow's blood hurts Hindus. We have equalled killing of a cow or cow progeny with killing of a human being.“

Initially, the draft bill submitted in the assembly had a provision of a maximum of 10 years of jail for cow slaughter. However, the penalty was raised to 14 years through a supplementary provision introduced in the House by the MoS home on Friday, which was attached with the amendment bill. The jail term for illegal ferrying of cows for slaughter, selling, stocking or exhibition of cow beef, too, has been raised to 10 years.

Cow slaughter, Punishment for

The state-wise position on slaughter


The state-wise position on cow slaughter, as in 2017; The Times of India, April 11, 2017

See graphic:

The state-wise position on cow slaughter, as in 2017

Madhya Pradesh

2019: Cong govt invokes NSA in Khandwa

February 6, 2019: The Times of India

The Khandwa administration in MP has invoked the National Security Act against three persons accused of cow slaughter — perhaps the first time a Congress government has done so.

The Kamal Nath government is championing the cow cause and has, within a month of being in office, launched a drive to build gaushalas, even mulling imposing a cow cess on luxury cars to fund its plan to build 1,000 cow shelters. MP law minister P C Sharma, who also handles religious and endowment department, said the CM “will not compromise on the agenda of cow protection”. Home minister Bala Bachchan said the state will not allow anyone to create disturbance in the state.

‘Zero-tolerance policy against heinous crimes’

MP home minister Bala Bachchan said, “Prompt action in Khandwa and imposition of NSA against those involved in the killing of cows makes clear that the government has a zero-tolerance policy towards heinous crimes, unlike the fake promises and assurances of the previous BJP regime.”

According to officials, the trio were charged under the NSA on Tuesday after police found one of the accused was a repeat offender. Police received information three days ago that some people had slaughtered cows near the Moghat area on January 31.

“Teams were sent to investigate and they found some people were indeed involved in the act,” Khandwa SP Siddharth Bahuguna said. A cow carcass was seized from the spot. But the accused got wind of police action and escaped but police arrested two suspects — Raju alias Nadeem and Shakeel — from Kharkali village on February 1. The third, Azam, was nabbed.


10-year jail/ 2020

Neha Lalchandani, Up to 10-yr jail for cow slaughter in UP, June 10, 2020: The Times of India

Yogi Govt Brings Ordinance To Make Law Stricter, Name & Shame Culprits


The Uttar Pradesh government made the UP Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955 more stringent by increasing the jail terms and penalties for various offences as well as deciding to publicly name and shame the offenders. Bringing an ordinance to make these changes, the state government claimed that there were loopholes in the existing law which would often allow offenders to go scot-free.

The new law increases the maximum jail term from the existing seven years to 10 years. Also, the existing penalty of Rs 10,000 has been increased to Rs 3 lakh to Rs 5 lakh for various offences. The government has also introduced in the Act a new section, 5B, which provides for a jail term ranging from one to seven years and a fine of Rs 1lakh to Rs 3 lakh for causing injury to cow or its progeny or transporting them in a condition which would endanger their lives. Not providing food and water to a cow has also been made a punishable offence in the “endangering life” category.

The ordinance has increased the penalty for offences like cow slaughter, sale of beef and illegal transportation of beef or cow and its progeny. The government has also decided to put up the name and photographs of an accused in prominent locations in his area if he tries to evade the law enforcing agencies.

For illegal transportation of beef, cow or its progeny, the driver, operator and owner of the vehicle which is caught transporting the unauthorised cargo will be charged under the new law. The vehicle, along with the cargo, will be confiscated.

The jail term for violation of section 3 of the Act, pertaining to cow slaughter, section 5 on sale of beef and 5A related to transportation of cow or beef will now be a minimum of three years and a maximum of 10 years. Earlier, the maximum imprisonment was for seven years while there was no minimum jail term. The fine has been increased from Rs 10,000 to Rs 3-5 lakh.

Causing injury to a cow, cow slaughter and sale of beef will now be cognizable and non-bailable offences.

Court judgements on cow slaughter

The judgements, till Sep 2021

Haritima Kavia , September 19, 2021:

In recent years, there have been increased instances of cows being granted reverence in judicial pronouncements. That many of the assertions made by these judges fail to separate religion from the law is beyond question. Even more problematic are the nonsensical assertions of cosmic powers and oxygen-generating abilities that have been attributed to cows in order to justify disproportionate punishments doled out to individuals belonging to minority communities. HARITIMA KAVIA writes about the decline of judicial rationale and the rise of religious bias in the judiciary.

In Hinduism, the cow has a divine significance and is therefore revered and protected. The union government, sharing this sentiment, has already allotted Rs. 500 crore for the protection and conservation of local cow breeds.

The judiciary, too, has joined these impassioned efforts for the benefit of cows. So much so that, on September 1, 2021, the Allahabad High Court observed that the cow should be declared the national animal of the country, and held that gau raksha (“protection of cows”) should be made a fundamental right of Hindus.

The Allahabad High Court writes its own mythical text

The single-Judge bench of Justice Shekhar Kumar Yadav made a litany of comments regarding the religious and cultural significance of cows, while denying bail to the applicant, who had been charged with cow slaughter in March. It was noted that the accused had not been charged with this offence for the first time, and that granting bail to him would disturb the harmony of society.

In his twelve-page order, Justice Yadav invoked mythology several times, stressing on the importance of the cow as previously established in the age-old scriptures of the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Shastras and the Puranas.

The High Court used the merits of modern science to back its archaic stance, stating that the cow is the only animal that inhales and exhales oxygen.

Adding to this, the Court made a rather tangential remark asking people to not forget the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan earlier this year. The Court warned people, stating that “whenever we forgot our culture, foreigners attacked us and enslaved us and if we are not warned, we should not forget the unbridled attack on and capture of Afghanistan by Taliban.”

While addressing the question of whether the consumption of beef is a fundamental right, he opined that “right to life can’t be snatched away merely for another’s pleasure of taste, and that the right to life is above the right to kill. The right to consume cow-beef can never be a Fundamental Right.”

This finding is in contrast to a previous judgement of the Allahabad High Court in 2017, wherein it was held that food and food-related habits are indisputably included within the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution as “food that is conducive to health cannot be treated as a wrong choice.”

Further into the detailed pronouncement alluding to the holy cow, the Court noted that cow’s ghee is used for oblations in ‘yajnas’ (“a ritual sacrifice”) since it “gives special energy to sunrays, and ultimately causes rain.”

The Court also made some questionable remarks regarding Muslim rulers banning cow slaughter in ancient India, balancing, or perhaps aiding, the one-sided religious take on cow slaughter.

It concluded that the cow should be made the national animal of the country as the current anti-cow slaughter rules and regulations hardly suffice in protecting them. The Court saw this move as the only way to ameliorate the worsening conditions of cow shelters around the country and protect the consecrated animal. Hindu interpretations of the Constitution

Although this ruling raised many eyebrows, it is hardly a bolt from the blue, as the Indian judiciary has pedestalized the animal and propounded its religious and cultural importance several times in the past.

In 2019, the Rajasthan High Court made an analogous ruling to declare the cow the national animal.

The Single-Judge Bench held that the Chief Secretary and the Advocate General of the state would thereafter be the legal custodians of cows.

Counterintuitive to the spirit of the Constitution of India, the Court made serious implications regarding the religious identity of the country while stating that “Nepal is a Hindu nation and has declared cow as national animal. India is a predominant agriculture country based in animal rearing. As per Article 48 and 51A (g) it is expected from the State government that they should take action to get a legal entity for cow in this country.”

The Bench also allowed future litigation by granting people the right to file public interest litigation for the declaration of the cow as a national animal.

Many other rulings on the importance of the cow have been made using religious, economic or scientific rationales. In 2019, the Punjab and Haryana High Court justified the ban on cow-slaughter by recognising the animal’s rights stemming from its importance in Hindu culture. It was held that the cow embodied the cosmic law of ‘dharma’, meaning righteousness.

Reversal of its stance by Supreme Court

Moreover, the Apex Court has also championed the cause of cow protection while overturning its own decision with unsettled claims regarding beef consumption. In 1958, the Supreme Court held that “there is no getting away from the fact that beef or buffalo meat is an item of food for a large section of the people in India” and that beef is a “poor man’s food.” While deciding the constitutionality of cow-slaughter ban laws in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, the Court further stressed on the question of the economic waste of “useless cattle.”

The Court concluded that “poorer people, therefore, who can hardly afford fruit or milk or ghee are likely to suffer from malnutrition if they are deprived of even one slice of beef or buffalo flesh which may sometimes be within their reach.”

Nearly four decades later, in 2005, the Supreme Court reversed its stance by stating that “Beef contributes only 1.3 per cent of the total meat consumption pattern of the Indian society”, and that nutrition is not “necessarily associated with non-vegetarian diet and that too originating from slaughtering cow and its progeny.”

The Court acknowledged the preceding judgement of the Gujarat High Court, wherein comparisons were made between cow dung and the Kohinoor diamond, and afforded protection to the animal.

Many courts in the Indian judiciary have jumped on this bandwagon that sanctifies the cow. However, their efforts have produced such unheard of assertions that cause one to question not only the legal, but also the factual validity of these statements.

That the judiciary is stooping to the level of the uninformed is a cause for concern at a time when religion-based violence has been surging in the country. It is imperative that judges be trained to keep personal beliefs out of judicial decisions, and that accountability is established for judges’ failure to adhere to the secular values of the Constitution. (Haritima Kavia is a third-year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) student at the Gujarat National Law University, and an intern with The Leaflet. The views expressed are personal.)

Cases in Supreme Court, HCs

Reservations, cow slaughter most frequent cases

The Times of India, Aug 01 2016

Dhananjay Mahapatra

SC protects cows, zealots needn't take law into hands

Vigilante `cow protection' groups taking the law into their hands to assault people for allegedly slaughtering cows is becoming a social as well as law and order problem in many states.Apart from reservation for backward classes, no issue other than cow slaughter has engaged the Supreme Court's repeated attention.

The first recorded judicial refe rence to cow slaughter figures in the Calcutta high court decision in Bhagwan Koer vs J C Bose & Ors [1904 ILR (31) Cal 11]. It was held that “Hindu religion is marvellously catholic and elastic... Its social code is much more stringent, but amongst its different castes and sections, it exhibits wide diversity of practice. No trait is more marked of Hindu society in general than its horror of using meat of the cow“.

Since then, the judiciary has never been able to shake off the cow's constitutional importance.After independence, Congress governments in states enacted laws prohibiting cow slaughter.

In Mohd Hanif Quareshi case [1958 AIR 731], a constitution bench of the SC noticed that Bihar, UP (1955) and Central Provinces and Berar (1949) enacted laws heeding to Article 48 of the Constitution to put a total ban on slaughter of all bovine animals. No exception was made even for bona fide religious purposes.

Validity of these laws was challenged on the ground that mandate of Article 48, a directive principle, would always be inferior to the fundamental right of the petitioner to carry on a business of slaughtering animals under Article 19(1)(g). They also said a total ban violated their fundamental right to religion under Article 25.

The SC had upheld the validity of total ban on cow slaughter. It said, “Protection is confined only to cows and calves and to those animals which are presently or potentially capable of yielding milk or of doing work as draught cattle but does not extend to cattle which at one time were milch or draught cattle but which have ceased to be such. Directive Principles of State Policy set out in Part-IV of the Constitution have to conform to and run as subsidiary to the fundamental rights in Part-III.“

But in Mohd Faruk vs Madhya Pradesh [1969 SCC (1) 853], the SC had said ban on slaughter of bovine animals would not include bulls and bullocks as it would violate fundamental right to carry on a profession. It had said, “A prohibition imposed on exercise of a fundamental right to carry on an occupation will not be regarded as reasonable, if it is imposed not in the interest of the public but merely to respect susceptibilities and sentiments of a sec tion of the people whose way of life, belief or thought is not the same as that of the claimant.“

In Haji Usmanbhai Hasanbhai Qureshi case [1986 (3) SCC 12], the SC had upheld the constitutional validity of Bombay Animal Preservation Act, 1954, imposing a ban on cow slaughter but allowing slaughter of bovine animals above age of 16 years. And the final verdict came from a seven-judge bench in October 2005 in the case Gujarat vs Mirzapur Moti Kureshi, which dealt with validity of Section 2 of the Bombay Animal Preservation (Gujarat Amendment) Act, 1994, introducing certain amendments in Section 5 of the 1954 Act (as applicable to Gujarat).

The bench noticed an SC judgment in West Bengal vs Ashutosh Lahiri [1995 (1) SCC 189] in which it had said, “Sacrifice of any animal by Muslims for religious purpose on Bakri Id does not include slaughtering of cow as the only way of carrying out that sacrifice.An optional religious practice is not covered by Article 25(1).“

In Moti Kureshi case, the SC had said, “On the contrary, it is common knowledge that cow and its progeny are worshipped by Hindus on specified days during Diwali and Makar Sankranti and Gopashtmi. A number of temples are to be found where statue of `Nandi' or `bull' is worshipped.“

It said, “In the light of the material available in abundance before us, there is no escape from the conclusion that the protection conferred by impugned enactment on cow progeny is needed in the interest of nation's economy . Merely because it may cause inconvenience or some dislocation to the butchers, restriction imposed by the impugned enactment does not cease to be in the interest of the public.“

So, there is abundance of law and SC rulings to protect the cow.We certainly don't need vigilante groups to appoint themselves as protectors of the cow. What these groups can do is rescue thousands of cows roaming streets and rehabilitate them in cow shelters .

If these self-styled protectors of cows could open a few hundred gaushalas and shelter homeless cows, they would be doing justice to the constitutional ethos that led to enactment of cow protection laws and subsequent SC rulings.

Cow a substitute for god and mother: Hyderabad HC

Sagarkumar Mutha, Cow a substitute for god and mother: Hyderabad HC judge, June 10, 2017: The Times of India

`Even Mughals Saw Wisdom Of Prohibiting Cow Slaughter'

A Hyderabad high court judge said that the cow was “sacred national wealth“ and a “substitute to mother and god“.The observation came days after a Rajasthan high court judge had said that cow should be declared the national animal.

Cattle trader Ramavath Hanuma had moved the HC after a trial court in Nalgonda rejected his petition seeking the custody of 63 cows seized from him. The cattle were seized from Kanchanapalli village, where Hanuma insisted that he had taken them for grazing. The prosecution had alleged that Hanuma, along with fellow suspects, had bought the cattle from farmers for slaughter so that cow meat could be distributed during Bakrid.

While dismissing Hanuma's plea, Justice B Siva Sankara Rao, quoting a Supreme Court order, said that it was a settled legal position that Muslims had no fundamental right to insist on the slaughter of healthy cows on Bakrid. The judge also directed that veterinary doctors in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh -the high court serves both states -who sent healthy cows to slaughterhouses by fraudulently certifying that they were unfit to give milk should be punished under the AP Cow Slaughter Act, 1977. In Andhra and Telangana, slaughter of cows is allowed if they are certified old and unproductive. He also directed that the Act be amended to make offences listed in the law non-bailable and cognisable.

Dismissing Hanuma's plea, Justice Rao said there was no need to interfere in the trial court's order. “Is a person entitled to claim interim custody of cows and bulls seized from him when he was allegedly taking them to a slaughterhouse? This question needs to be posed and answered in view of the national importance of cows, which are substitutes to mother and god,“ Justice Rao said in his order.

The judge said that Emperor Babar saw the wisdom of prohibiting the slaughter of cows as a religious sacrifice, and directed his son Humayun to follow the example. He added that emperors Akbar, Jehangir, and Ahmad Shah also prohibited cow slaughter.

The judge also sought the amendment of sections 11and 26 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and the enhancement of punishment on a par with IPC section 429, which carries jail term up to five years.

Decriminalisation of beef: 2016, Bombay HC

The Times of India, May 07 2016

Shibu Thomas

HC says state can't dictate citizen's `choice of food', decriminalises beef

Upholds Ban On Slaughter In Maha, Slams Restrictions On Eating Or Possessing Meat Brought From Outside State As `Unconstitutional' & `Violation Of Right To Privacy'

After the Maharashtra government enacted a total ban on beef across the state, the Bombay high court relaxed the restrictions and struck down draconian provisions that could be misused by lawenforcement agencies and vigilantes.

A division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Suresh Gupte upheld the ban on slaughter of bulls and bullocks, along with cows, in Maharashtra, but struck down as “unconstitutional“ provisions that made it an offence to consume and possess beef that was brought from outside the state.

The judges said the state could not dictate a citizen's “choice of food“.

Mere possession of beef would no longer be a crime either, with the high court reading the provision down to “conscious possession“ -the state will have to prove that the person had knowledge that the meat in his possession was the result of illegal slaughter. The Bombay high court on Friday struck down a third provi sion of the year-old beef ban in Maharashtra that fastened “presumption of guilt“ on the accused. The law said if a person sells or transports cows, bulls or bullocks, it would be presumed that it was meant for the purpose of slaughter and he could be prosecuted.This is now no longer available to the state. All three provisions, the state had insisted at the time of arguments, were required for proper enforcement of the law. A plea by the state lawyers for a stay on that portion of the judgment was rejected by the HC.

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the court had upheld the law but added that the state will look into the order and decide if it wants to move the Supreme Court against the striking down of two provisions.While, according to the law, slaughter, transportation and sale attracts a prison term of up to 5 years, possession of beef brought in from outside the state could attract up to a year in jail.

A coalition of citizens of Mumbai from every com munity , that included filmmakers, journalists, women's rights activists and even a sitting MLA, had challenged the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, especially Section 5D, that made possession of beef brought from outside Maharashtra a crime. The HC agreed the section violated the “right to privacy“ that it held was part of the fundamental right to life and liberty guaranteed under the Constitution. The HC verdict could spur anti-beef-ban activists to move similar petitions in other states which have similar beef ban laws.

“As far as the choice of eating food of the citizens is concerned, the citizens are required to be left alone especially when the food of their choice is not injurious to health,“ said the judges. “In fact, the state cannot control what a citizen does in his house which is his own castle, provided he is not doing something which is contrary to law. The state cannot make an intrusion into his home and prevent a citizen from possessing and eating food of his choice.“ The HC said the state had not made out a case that there was some public interest in enacting Section 5D, whose focus was on targeting consumption of beef. “If the state tells the citizens not to eat a type of food or prevents the citizens from possessing and consuming a particular type of food, it will certainly be an infringement of a right to privacy as it violates the right to be left alone,“ the HC added.

Legal guardians of cows

The Uttarakhand high court assumes responsibility/ 2018

Vineet Upadhyay, We are legal guardians of cows in U’khand: HC, August 14, 2018: The Times of India

After Ganga And Wildlife, High Court Shows Compassion For Cattle

In a first of its kind ruling in the country, Uttarakhand high court invoked the ‘parens patriae’ clause (becoming a legal protector) for “the welfare of cows and other stray cattle in Uttarakhand.” By invoking this provision, the court declared itself as a legal guardian of members of the bovine family across the state. The court’s order was delivered on August 10 and a certified copy was made available on Monday.

A division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Manoj Kumar Tiwari in the detailed 41-page order spelt out various steps for the protection of cows in the state.

Citing various references in its order including Supreme Court rulings, excerpts from the Upanishads and Arthashastra as well as teachings of Jainism and Buddhism and quotes of Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama to stress the importance of caring for animals, the judges gave a series of directions to the state government. These included “ensuring the banning of slaughter of any cow, bull, bullock, heifer or calf, prohibition on selling of beef or beef products in any form throughout the state, providing medical treatment to all the stray cattle in the state, appointing infirmaries within a period of three weeks in order to treat and take care of the animals, evicting all unauthorised occupants/encroachers from gaushalas within a period of three months and ensuring adequate patrolling by state police in rural areas once in 24 hours to ensure that no cow is slaughtered.” “A special squad is ordered to be headed by an officer not below the rank of deputy superintendent of police in both commissionaries that is Kumaon and Garhwal with one veterinarian to protect cows,” the judges said.

The court also ordered cases to be registered under sections 289, 428 and 429 of the IPC as well as various provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 1960 and section 7 of the Uttarakhand Protection of Cow Progeny Act, 2007, against the owners of any cattle that are found on the streets.

Stressing on the importance of compassion while dealing with the animals, the judges said, “No pain or agony should be caused to the animals. Cruelty to animals also causes psychological pain to them. In Hindu mythology, every animal is associated with god. Animals breathe like us and have emotions. They require food, water, shelter, and medical care.”

The directions came while hearing a public interest litigation alleging abandoned cows and bulls are being slaughtered in Haridwar district.

The HC invoked the ‘parens patriae’ clause to become the legal protector of cows, the first ruling of its kind in the country

Misuse of cow slaughter Act

Gujarat: Misuse of PASA

October 27, 2020: The Times of India

HC raps Guj govt for law misuse

‘Religious Sentiments Can’t Be Basis For Invoking PASA’


The Gujarat high court rapped the state government for making religious sentiments the basis for invoking PASA, in a case involving alleged beef transportation and cow slaughter.

The court said sentiments of people do not have legal force. Quashing an order for detention under the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act (PASA) against a person booked twice on allegations of transporting beef, the bench of chief justice Vikram Nath and Justice JB Pardiwala observed: “We have noticed something very unusual in the grounds of detention. At various places in the grounds of detention, it has been stated that the activities of the detenue are of such a nature that the religious sentiments of the people at large would get hurt. We may only observe that an order of preventive detention cannot be passed on the basis of the religious sentiments of the people. The sentiments of the people have no legal force.”

The case involved one Amjad Rajput, who was booked twice in April 2019 after police intercepted a few people transporting beef, first in the Rakhial police station jurisdiction and then in Amraiwadi. Police booked Rajput under the Gujarat Animal Prevention (Amendment) Act, 2011 for allegedly slaughtering cows, on the basis of statements given by the co-accused.

He was granted anticipatory bail in May. The PASA order was passed against him in August 2019 by dubbing him a “cruel person”. A single judge in the high court had rejected Rajput’s petition challenging the detention order. But the division bench was critical of the invocation of PASA against him.

UP cow slaughter act being misused: HC

Rajesh Kumar Pandey, October 27, 2020: The Times of India


The Allahabad high court has expressed concern about the “misuse” of the Uttar Pradesh Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, saying “whenever any meat is recovered, it is normally shown as cow meat (beef) without getting it examined or analysed by a forensic laboratory”.

Granting bail to one Rahmu alias Rahmuddin, of Shamli, who was alleged to be involved in cow slaughter, Justice Siddharth said, “The act is being misused against innocent persons… In most cases, the meat is not sent for analysis. Accused persons continue in jail for an offence that may not have been committed at all and which is triable by a magistrate first class, having a maximum sentence up to seven years (sic).”

Need to take care of abandoned cows, says court

The court added, “Whenever cows are shown to be recovered, no proper recovery memo is prepared and one does not know where the cows go.” Suggesting that there is need to take care of abandoned cows if the act is to be implemented in letter and spirit, the HC said: “Gaushalas do not accept non-milking cows or old cows and they are left to wander on the roads. Similarly, the owners, after milking, leave the cows to roam on the roads.”

“Moreover, cows and cattle on the road are a menace to traffic and a number of deaths have been reported due to them,” it said. “In rural areas cattle owners who are unable to feed their livestock abandon them. They cannot be transported outside the state for fear of locals and police. There are no pastures now. Thus these animals wander and destroy crops,” it added.

Transportation possession off cattle is not a crime: HC

Rajesh Kumar Pandey, June 8, 2023: The Times of India

Prayagraj : The Allahabad high court has held that mere possession and transportation of cattle within the state would not amount to an offence under the Uttar Pradesh Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955.

Making these observations, Justice Vikram D Chauhan granted bail to Kundan Yadav of Kushinagar district as no evidence of physical injury to any cow or its progeny, which could endanger their lives, was found.

The court was hearing the bail application of a man who was arrested and kept in jail for almost three months after six cows, which had no signs of physical injury, were recovered from a vehicle. Consequently, he was jailed for offences under the UP Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

While allowing Kundan Yadav’s bail application, the court observed, “Mere possession of live cow/bullock by itself cannot amount to committing, abetting or attempting an offence under the Cow Slaughter Act. Further, mere transportation of cows from one place to another within UP would not come within the ambit of the aforesaid act. Hence, mere transport of cows within UP state would not amount to committing abetting or attempting to commit an offence under the said act. ”

Cow vigilantism

Punishment for

2017/ Nashik externs cow vigilante for a year

Shibu Thomas, Nashik externs cow vigilante for a year, December 14, 2017: The Times of India

‘Animal Lover’ Challenges Order In HC

In probably the first case of its kind in Maharashtra, a gau rakshak has been externed from his home district. Machhindra Shirke, 29, who claims to be an “animal lover” who has “saved thousands of cows and its (sic) progeny,” approached Bombay high court on Wednesday after he was externed from Nashik district for a year.

Shirke said police have cited the nine criminal cases registered against him for offences ranging from criminal intimidation to attempt to murder, which he claims are based on frivolous complaints because of his work, to extern him. A division bench of Justice Naresh Patil and Justice Nitin Sambre directed the state government to file an affidavit in response to Shirke’s petition and scheduled the case for further hearing on January 10, 2018. In his petition, Shirke claims to have been working for animal welfare for over 12 years and to have been appointed as an “animal welfare officer.” He further claimed he was a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Goseva Sangh and the Mukhya Mantri Mitra Abhiyan and was associated with the VHP and the Gaurakhsa Samiti, Malegaon.

According to Shirke, the police had failed to take action as Malegaon has a majority population of Muslims. He said he had lodged over 40 FIRs against persons involved in cow trafficking, smuggling and slaughter. “The petitioner saves the cows and animals only as per the law and with the help of the police,” the petition claimed. “Due to the continuous raids conducted by the petitioner with the help of police officers, the beef lobby and some notorious illegal butchers of Malegaon and nearby areas have lodged false complaints against him,” the petition said.

Between 2012 and 2017, nine cases were lodged against him. The offences invoked include provisions of the Mumbai Police Act, Arms Act and IPC for breach of peace, criminal intimidation, dacoity and attempt to murder. He claimed most cases were lodged under pressure from persons involved in cow trafficking.

Earlier this year, the Addl SP, Malegaon, recommended Shirke should be externed for two years from Nashik, Dhulia, Jalgaon, Nandurbar and Ahmednagar. In August, the sub-divisional magistrate externed him from Nashik for a year. The divisional commissioner upheld the order in September, dismissing Shirke’s appeal. Shirke said he was a victim for his role in preventing violation of animal welfare laws and urged HC to strike down his externment.

Vigilantes’ victims of must get state compensation: SC, 2017

Dhananjay Mahapatra, September 23, 2017: The Times of India

A fortnight after directing states to take stern action to stop cow vigilante groups from becoming a law unto themselves, the Supreme Court said that states were obliged to compensate victims of violence perpetrated by these gangs.

A bench of CJI Dipak Mis ra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said, “Victims of violence have to be compensated. States are obliged to frame compensation schemes and grant assistance to (such) victims.“

Advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for petitioner Tushar Gandhi, said no compensation was given to cow vigilantism victim Junaid of Faridabad and requested the court to order the Haryana government to take urgent steps. Not only in Harya na, but in many other instances in other states, no compensation has been paid to victims of cow vigilantism,“ senior advocate Indira Jaising said.

The bench refused to be drawn into specific instances of violence by cow vigilante groups while dealing with the larger issue. “On the Faridabad incident, you must approach the high court concerned. We do not want to mix this incident with the real issue you (petitioner) are espousing,“ it said.

Jaising pleaded it was high time the SC stepped in to frame a national policy against cow vigilantism to prevent violence in the name of cow protection. “Please direct the Centre to come out with a scheme for prevention of such violence,“ she said.

The bench said there was a practical difficulty in asking for a national policy on what was primarily a law-and-order issue, falling squarely in the domain of states. “We do not want to pass such an order. It is a state sub ject. It is constitutionally not permissible to order the Centre to frame a national policy ,“ the CJIheaded bench said.

However, the court was firm in its view that “law and order has to receive primacy and anyone violating peace must face stringent action“. The court noted that only Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Jharkhand and Karnataka had filed affi davits to inform the court about complying with its September 6 order. It asked the other states to file their compliance affidavits by October 13.

On September 6, the SC had ordered states to take immediate steps to rein in cow vigilante groups and prevent these gangs from “taking the law into their hands“ and keep highways safe from such attacks. It had directed states to appoint a senior police officer for each district as the nodal person to coordinate action against cow vigilante groups. It had ordered chief secretaries of each state to meet the DGPs to keep highways safe.

See also

Cattle: India

Cows: India

Cows and the law: India

Cow slaughter: India

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