Over the last few months, the issue of cattle slaughter has engulfed the whole of the country.
Cattle slaughter has become a controversial topic in India, with one group of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists treating cattle as an endeared and respected living being, while the other religions of Islam and Christianity considering it as a source of meat.
In such intense scenario, Union Government's new Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules have steamed up the winds. These Rules prohibit the sale of cows and buffaloes for slaughter at animal markets.
Recently in July 2017, the Supreme Court has tried to normalise the situation by putting a stay on the ban on cattle slaughter.
And with this, the political, legal and constitutional fault lines have opened up, causing uncertainty about what the outcome will be.
Cattle Slaughter: A Dispute since the founding of Republic of India
• This dispute of Cattle Slaughter has a history, which dates back to the founding of the Republic of India.
• During the framing of the Constitution, the subject of cow slaughter was one of the most contentious topics of debate.
• Seth Govind Das, a member of the Constituent Assembly, called for the prohibition of cow slaughter to be made part of the Constitution’s chapter on Fundamental Rights.
• This advanced a mix of cultural and economic arguments, invoking the sentiments of thirty crores of population.
• In its final form, this Directive Principle (Article 48 of the Constitution) under the heading “Organisation of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry”, says the state shall organise agriculture and animal husbandry and take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter of cattle.
What backed Cattle Slaughter issue?
• In May 2015, Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi was killed in Rajasthan's Nagaur district following rumours that he killed 200 cows for a feast.
• In August 2015, few people from Chilla Village near New Delhi’s Mayur Vihar area clashed with four truck drivers who were reportedly transferring buffaloes to a slaughter house in Ghazipur.
• In September 2015, Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri was lynched by a mob, who accused him of killing a cow and consuming its meat on Eid. This incident entangled the whole country in the threads of religious aspects of cattle.
• In March 2016, in the Latehar district of Jharkhand, two Muslim men were first brutally assaulted and then hung from a tree for transporting cows they purchased from a cattle fair.
• In May 2016, Bombay High Court allowed the consumption of imported beef, but supported the government’s ban on cow and bull slaughter.
• In July 2016, Around 35 gau rakshaks banged seven members of a Dalit family for allegedly skinning a dead cow in the Gir Somnath district of Gujarat.
• In January 2017, the Supreme Court rejected a petition seeking a nationwide ban on cow slaughter.
• In May 2017, the Union Environment Ministry issued a notification effectively banning sale or purchase of cattle for slaughter across the country which led to a lot controversy.
• These rules were perceived as imposing an indirect beef ban and led to protests in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and have drawn strong condemnation from West Bengal as well.
• In July 2017, the Supreme Court stayed the ban on sale or purchase of cattle for slaughter.
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules, 2017
• The definition of cattle includes bulls, bullocks, cows, buffalos, steers, heifers, calves and camels.
• The cattle trade is permitted only among farm land owners across the nation.
• Cattle can only be sold to a person possessing documents that he/she is an agriculturist.
• Cattle bought cannot be resold within six months, in fact, young and unfit animals cannot be traded.
• Animal markets cannot be set up within 50 kilometres of an international border and 25 kilometres of a state border.
• Transporting cattle outside of India will require special approval of the state government nominee.
• All animal markets will have to seek the approval of district animal market committee to be headed by a magistrate.
• The owner of the animal has to bear the cost of its upkeep in a shelter.
• The rules state around 30 norms for animal welfare in markets, like water, fans, bedding, ramps, non-slippery flooring, veterinary facility and separate enclosure for sick animals among others.
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