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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Everything you need to know about the Assam Cow Protection Bill

A new bill to protect cattle has been tabled in the Assam Legislative Assembly on Monday by the BJP government in Assam. The new bill has elaborate rules for protection of cattle against slaughter. The bill has been brought to replace the Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1950 as it lacks sufficient legal provisions in regulating slaughter, consumption and transportation of cattle. 

The proposed bill, Assam Cattle Protection Bill 2021, bans sale and purchase of beef or beef products in areas where Hindu, Jain, Sikh and other non beef-eating communities are in majority and within a radius of 5 km of any temple or satra (Vaishnavite monasteries) in Assam. 

Even though states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have their own laws to ban cow slaughter, they are not as stringent as Assam’s new bill. The other state laws do not have provisions to exclude specific areas and religious places of worship. Likewise the laws are only for cows and their progeny. But Assam’s new bill not only exclusively defines where cattle should not be slaughtered and beef or its products be sold. It also includes bulls, bullocks, cows, heifers, calves, male and female buffaloes and buffalo calves in the list of animals to be protected through the new act.

It reads “No person shall directly or indirectly sell or offer or expose for sale or buy beef or beef products in any forms except at places permitted to do so by the competent authority”. The new bill specifically aims to regulate illegal transportation of cattle  to Bangladesh along the porous border of 263 km. It has a separate section for ‘Prohibition on transport of cattle’. 

Section 7 on the same bans the transport of cattle without valid permission from Assam to states where no anti-cow slaughter law exists. It also prohibits transportation of cattle from one state to another ‘through’ Assam.Apart from that, it restricts movement of cattle from one district to another district without proper documents but gives exception to those who transport cattle within a district for ‘grazing or other agricultural or animal husbandry purposes, as well as to and from registered animal markets’.

The 1950 anti-slaughter act allows cattle ‘over 14 years of age’ or ‘those unfit for work’ to be slaughtered based on a certificate issued by a veterinary officer after examination. The proposed bill makes this ‘fit for slaughter certificate’ mandatory for slaughtering all cattle but exempts cows from the list, prohibiting their slaughter. For cattle other than cows, the bill mandates that no certificate shall be issued by the veterinary officer unless he/she opines that the cattle, except cows and calves, is over 14 years of age or become permanently disabled from work or breeding due to accidental injury or deformity.

Unlike the 1950 act which gives power only to the veterinary officer and certifying officer, the new bill gives power to police officers and other officials authorised by the government to raid a place which is suspected to be violating the law. It allows any authorised official to “enter and inspect any premises” within their jurisdiction where he has “reason to believe that an offence under the Act has been or is likely to be committed”, 

In a move to make the bill more stringent, provisions have been added to jail anybody found guilty of violating these rules for minimum 3 years (extendable up to eight years) and fined Rs 3 lakh (with the upper limit Rs 5 lakh), or both. It also states that the punishment will be doubled for repeat offenders.

However certain exemptions for religious purposes have been allowed so as to not disturb the religious customs. The new bill exempts slaughter of cattle, barring cows, calves and heifers, on religious occasions. Means to save and raise cows and other cattle have also been proposed by establishing new Gaushalas. As the bill takes Hindu beliefs and customs into account unlike lukewarm anti-slaughter laws in other states, it has caused much heartburn among left liberals and Breaking India forces. 

(Featured Image Source: BBC)

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