New Delhi: Setting the ball rolling for a possible law banning beef and cow slaughter, the Union environment ministry has asked the agriculture ministry to explore the option of enacting a national law to prohibit slaughtering of cow, selling of beef or beef products.
Anil Madhav Dave-led ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) sent a letter to this effect to the Union agriculture ministry’s Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries (Cattle Division) on 23 December. Mint has reviewed a copy of the letter.
It is not the first instance when protection of cow, considered holy by a section of Hindus, is in news. Since May 2014, when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) assumed power, there have been several occasions when the issue of cow protection has been in the limelight.
Last year, the BJP-led Haryana government banned the sale of beef in any form and proposed imprisonment of 10 years for cow slaughter. Maharashtra, another BJP-ruled state, also banned the sale and consumption of beef and imposed a five-year jail term for cow slaughter in 2015. However, in 2016 the Bombay High Court struck down some sections of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act which criminalized possession of beef, saying that they infringed upon a person’s right to privacy. In September 2015, Mohammad Akhlaq was killed by a mob in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, on the suspicion that his family stored and consumed beef at home.
The MoEFCC letter seems to be in response to a July 2016 judgment by the Himachal Pradesh High Court asking the Central government to, “enact the law prohibiting slaughtering of cow/calf, import or export of cow/calf, selling of beef or beef products, in its wisdom, at national level”.
“In view of the fact that slaughtering of cow/calf, import or export of cow/calf, selling of beef or beef products and related matters fall under the administration of Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries (cattle division), it is required that necessary action in the matter may kindly be taken,” said the MoEFCC letter.
The Central government, during the hearing of the case, had told the Himachal Pradesh high court that the “subject falls within entry No. 15 of the State List” and that only five states and one Union territory have no legislation on the subject.
“However, Union of India has not taken into consideration entry No. 17 and 17B of the Concurrent List. It is open for the Union of India to enact law at the national level prohibiting slaughtering of cow/calf, import or export of cow/calf, selling of beef or beef products under entry No. 17 of the Concurrent List. Accordingly, the directions issued by this Court on 14.10.2015 to Union of India to enact law prohibiting slaughtering of cow/calf, import or export of cow/calf, selling of beef or beef products, at the national level, are reiterated. The necessary steps be taken within six months from today,” the court had noted.
BJP, in its manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, too, had promised to take steps for cow protection.
“In view of the contribution of cow and its progeny to agriculture, socio-economic and cultural life of our country, the Department of Animal Husbandry will be suitably strengthened and empowered for the protection and promotion of cow and its progeny. Necessary legal framework will be created to protect and promote cow and its progeny,” the manifesto had promised.
Meanwhile, there have been demands to declare cow as India’s national animal replacing tiger.
The home ministry has discussed ways to check cattle (mainly cows) smuggling to Bangladesh . The environment ministry has also asked the Animal Welfare Board of India to assess the cost of building new cow shelters and maintain existing ones to house stray cattle across India.