In a first of its kind ruling, Uttarakhand High Court on August 14, 2018 invoked the 'parens patriae' doctrine and declared itself as a legal guardian of members of the bovine family across the state.
'Parens patriae' doctrine
The 'parens patriae' doctrine translates as ‘parent of the nation’. It grants the court inherent power and authority to act as guardian for those who are unable to take care of themselves.
Thus, the court becomes a legal protector for the welfare of cows and other stray cattle in Uttarakhand.
A division bench, comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Manoj Kumar Tiwari, issued various directions for the protection of cows in the state.
The bench cited various references in its order to stress the importance of caring for animals 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.
The slaughter of cows, bulls and calves is already banned in the state under the Uttarakhand Protection of Cow Progeny Act, which provides a jail term of up to ten years or Rs 10,000 fine, or both.
Directions issued by the bench
• Ensure the ban on slaughter of any cow, bull, bullock, heifer or calf
• Prohibition on selling of beef or beef products in any form throughout the state
• Provide medical treatment to all the stray cattle in the state
• Appoint infirmaries within a period of three weeks in order to treat and take care of the animals
• Evict all unauthorised occupants from gaushalas within a period of three months
• All Circle Officers in the state shall patrol the rural areas once in 24 hours to ensure that no cow is slaughtered
• Ensure adequate patrolling by state police in rural areas once in 24 hours to ensure that no cow is slaughtered
• Constitution of a special squad that will be headed by an officer not below the rank of deputy superintendent of police in Kumaon and Garhwal commissionaries with one vet to protect cows
• Cases shall be registered against the owners of any cattle which are found on the streets 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.
• Chief engineers of all national and state highways to ensure that no stray cattle come onto the roads
• Officials of civic bodies shall ensure that all the roads passing through their jurisdiction are kept free from stray cattle.
• Office-bearers of municipal bodies as well as district magistrates throughout the state shall construct shelters for housing stray cattle within a period of one year.
• The District Managers were asked to ensure there was at least one cow shelter for a cluster of 25 villages.
• The shelters should be constructed on scientific lines taking into consideration the comfort of animals to be housed there.
• No commercial charges shall be levied for supplying the electricity and water connections in the shelters.
• Government vets across the state shall not refuse treatment to any stray cattle brought to them.
Directions came on a PIL filed by Alim Ali
The High Court's directions came while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by local farmer Alim Ali in 2017 alleging that abandoned cows and bulls are being slaughtered in Solapur Gada village in Haridwar district.
Alim alleged that a person, who was given licence for selling meat in 2014, was slaughtering abandoned bulls and cows openly and the blood from the slaughter was flowing into water bodies in violation of laws. The PIL had also alleged that the license of the person to run the slaughter house had already expired and still he was continuing with the open slaughter.
Recent rulings of Uttarakhand High Court to safeguard animals in the state
In a first, the Uttarakhand High Court on July 4, 2018 accorded the status of ‘legal person or entity’ to the animals in the state and said that "they have a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person."
The bench said, “to protect and promote the greater welfare of animals including avian and aquatic, animals are required to be conferred with the status of legal entity/ legal person.”
Uttarakhand High Court (HC) on August 3, 2018 banned the commercial use of elephants in the state and directed the state forest department to rescue the elephants deployed for commercial purposes within a time span of 24 hours.
The court asked the state government to ensure that “not more than 100 vehicles are permitted to enter in Sitabani, Bijrani and Dhela zones of Corbett including Kalagarh and Rajaji National Park, in a day.”
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