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Assam’s cow protection Bill


Assam’s Assembly said its primary objective was to check the smuggling of cows to Bangladesh and tabled the Assam Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021.


GS-II: Polity and Governance (Constitutional Provisions, Government Interventions and Policies, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Cattle slaughter in India
  2. What is in the Constitution Regarding Cow-Slaughter
  3. Legislations against Cow-Slaughter in India
  4. What about India’s Export and Import of Beef?
  5. About the Assam Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021

Cattle slaughter in India

  • Cattle slaughter, especially cow slaughter is a controversial topic in India because of the cattle’s traditional status as an endeared and respected living being to some sects of Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, and Buddhism while being considered an acceptable source of meat by Muslims as well as adherents of other non-Dharmic Religions in India, such as Zoroastrianism (although some Zoroastrians do not eat beef), and the Animistic and Abrahamic religions etc.
  • More specifically, the cow’s slaughter has been shunned because of a number of reasons such as being associated with god Krishna in Hinduism, cattle being respected as an integral part of rural livelihoods and an economic necessity.
  • Legislation against cattle slaughter is in place throughout most states of India except Kerala, Goa, West Bengal, and states of Northeast India.

What is in the Constitution Regarding Cow-Slaughter

  • States can make laws on the matters regarding “Preservation, protection and improvement of stock and prevention of animal diseases, veterinary training and practice” which is in the State List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution – meaning that State legislatures have exclusive powers to legislate the prevention of slaughter and preservation of cattle.
  • The prohibition of cow slaughter is also one of the Directive Principles of State Policy contained in Article 48 of the Constitution. It reads, “The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.”

Legislations against Cow-Slaughter in India

  • In 2005, the Supreme Court of India, in a landmark judgement upheld the constitutional validity of anti-cow slaughter laws enacted by different state governments in India.
  • 20 out of 28 states in India currently have various laws regulating act of slaughtered cow, prohibiting the slaughter or sale of cows.
  • The laws governing cattle slaughter in India vary greatly from state to state.
  • Some States allow the slaughter of cattle with restrictions like a “fit-for-slaughter” certificate which may be issued depending on factors like age and sex of cattle, continued economic viability etc.
  • Others completely ban cattle slaughter, while there is no restriction in a few states.

The 2017 Ban by Central Government and Suspension of that ban by SC

  • In 2017, the Ministry of Environment of the Government of India led by Bharatiya Janata Party imposed a ban on the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter at animal markets across India, under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals statutes.
  • The Supreme Court of India suspended the ban on sale of cattle in its judgement in July 2017, giving relief to beef and leather industries.
  • In several cases, such as Mohd. Hanif Qureshi v. State of Bihar (AIR 1959 SCR 629), Hashumatullah v. State of Madhya Pradesh, Abdul Hakim and others v. State of Bihar (AIR 1961 SC 448) and Mohd. Faruk v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the Supreme Court has held that, “A total ban [on cattle slaughter] was not permissible if, under economic conditions, keeping useless bull or bullock be a burden on the society and therefore not in the public interest.”

What about India’s Export and Import of Beef?

  • India has rapidly grown to become the world’s largest beef exporter, accounting for 20% of world’s beef trade based on its large water buffalo meat processing industry.
  • As per existing meat export policy in India, the export and import of beef (meat of cow, oxen and calf) is prohibited.
  • Bone in meat, carcass, half carcass of buffalo is also prohibited and is not permitted to be exported.
  • Only the boneless meat of buffalo, meat of goat and sheep and birds are permitted for export.

About the Assam Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021

  • The Bill seeks to replace the Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1950, that allows the slaughter of cattle above 14 years of age or those that have become permanently incapacitated due to work, breeding, accident or deformity after local veterinary officers certify that they are fit for slaughter. The Bill retains this provision while intending to regulate the slaughter, consumption and illegal transportation of cattle across Assam. It says the certified cattle can be slaughtered only in licensed and recognised slaughterhouses.
  • It also seeks to restrict the sale of beef in areas dominated by non-beef consuming communities and within a 5-km radius of temples and ‘satras’ (Vaishnav monasteries) formed by the 15-16th century saint-reformer Srimanta Sankaradeva.
  • The State government may exempt certain places of worship, or certain occasions from the slaughter of cattle other than cow, heifer or calf, for religious purposes according to the bill.
  • The Bill says no one will be allowed to sell beef or beef products in any form except at places permitted by the government.
  • The Bill seeks to regulate the sale of cattle in the recognised animal markets.
  • The Bill seeks to ban the transportation of cattle to and from Assam as well as within the State unless competent authorities issue permits for movement of the animal.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023