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Recurring Instances Of Attack By Cow Vigilants


A 39-year-old assistant driver of a van transporting cattle was allegedly tortured and killed by a right-wing activist and his associates in Karnataka.


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. Key points
  2. Cattle slaughter in India
  3. What is in the Constitution Regarding Cow-Slaughter
  4. The 2005 judgment by the Supreme Court
  5. Legislations against Cow-Slaughter in India
  6. The 2017 Ban by Central Government and Suspension of that ban by SC
  7. Conclusion

Key points:

  • The murder of the cattle traders or transporters is one among recurring murderous acts across States. This is found to be more predominant in north of India.
  • There are scores of such incidents recently seen in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh on the suspicion of storing meat, transporting cattle and lynching of tribal men needs to be condemned.
  • The recurrence of these acts is also a consequence of the emboldening of these right-wing activists, who show little regard for human lives as opposed to their perceived religious beliefs on cow slaughter.

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.”

The 2005 judgment by the Supreme Court:

  • Following such repeated incidents, the Supreme Court banned cattle slaughter in 2005.
  • The Judgement was based on an expansive interpretation of the Directive Principles of state policy, besides Articles 48, 48A, and 51(A) of the Constitution.
  • This judgment had overturned an earlier ruling in 1958, which had limited the ban only to “useful” cattle engaged in agriculture and husbandry.
  • The judgment’s interpretation resulted in States, to come up with stringent laws on cow slaughter, and the stigmatisation of Dalits, Muslims and tribals for their dietary habits and dependence on cattle products for a livelihood, besides allowing for impudent behaviour by so-called “vigilantes”.

Legislations against Cow-Slaughter in India

  • 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.”


  • Such incidents could foster communal disharmony and the any delay by the police in bringing the guilty to book will be a signal that this is a repetition of the injustices that were committed against other victims.
  • Hence, it is not enough to condemn these acts; It is time for a judicial rethink on legislation over cow slaughter.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024