Cattle Protection Laws: Cowing Down The Accused?
Cattle protection and animal husbandry on scientific lines form a crucial part of the smooth functioning and future progress of any economy, especially an agrarian economy. With this foresightedness, our forefathers very fittingly made a provision to promote animal husbandry on scientific lines (Article 48) in the constitution itself for the states to incorporate while formulating their policies. Over the years, this provision which exists as a directive principle of state policy under Part IV of the constitution assumed a more concrete shape in the form of individual anti-cow slaughter laws in most states. However, contrary to most expectations, with these new laws being brought to life, a new era of communal debates and lawlessness was unleashed.
How is it that a law meant to benefit India and its agriculture began stemming contempt and became a conduit for cowing down the accused? The answer shall lie in the abuse of legal loopholes and a lack of institutional push towards allaying the fear of the masses.
Case under study
Evolution: Article 48
Before we delve into these violations and their causes, we first need to understand the source of all these laws. Notably, all state cow/ cattle protection laws owe their existence to Article 48 in Part IV of the constitution. This article states:
'The State shall endeavor 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.'
National Security Act: A tool of abuse?
The NSA and several anti-terror laws provide wide range of discretion to detain the accused for upto a year along with impunity from action to the authorities.
Notably, Section 3(2) of this Act enables the State Government to prevent a man from acting in a manner prejudicial to the security of the state, to maintenance of public order or to the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community upon its satisfaction and make an order directing such a person to be detained if found necessary. Further, once a government passes an order to detain such person on grounds mentioned hereinbefore, the person shall be put under detention and the authority shall be immune for such action exercised in good faith (Section 16).
The latest order of the Madhya Pradesh government is no different and accounts for another case of gross misuse of this Act for reasons mentioned hereinafter:
- a)Equates 'public order' with 'law and order'
Therefore, despite clear tests having been laid, why the authorities still continue to loosely interpret these phrases so as to consider an offence of the nature of 'illegal transport of cattle' sufficient to 'necessitate' the evocation of the NSA is a question one is compelled to ask.
b) Order ultra vires the object of the act
The entire law pertaining to cow slaughter, illegal transport ban finds its roots in the intent of ensuring good animal husbandry practices as mentioned above. Thus, in that light, testifying such acts as being communally colored and having a potential of enraging the public only reinforces the prevalent biases of the state and falls far from its objectives.
c) Preventive Detention Laws: Strict Construction
In the words of the Apex Court in the case of State Of Punjab vs Jagdev Singh Talwandi 'While passing orders of detaining, great care must be brought to bear on their task by the detaining authorities. Preventive detention is a necessary evil but essentially an evil. Therefore, deprivation of personal liberty, if at all, has to be on the strict terms of the Constitution. Nothing less. A casual and unimaginative approach thus needs to be curbed upon.'
In this light a mere apprehension that an act might not go well with the hypersensitivity of the masses clipping the wings of the accused involved in criminal prosecution makes up for a case of a manifest violation of the constitutional ethos.
Despite a flurry of laws, policies and administrative boards in place, today, the scientific intent has taken a backseat and it is the theological dictat that is deciding the course of this debate. Even if these policies are implemented with the outlook of a systematic change, it is when narratives of 'Gomata' and its immense contribution to the Indic culture from the time of Lord Vishnu to the Mughals to the era of Mahatma Gandhi are used to sell these ideas, these non-secular elements and emotions end up spreading their roots.
The earliest case of legitimizing a blanket ban on cow slaughter was that of Mohd Hanif Qureshi and ors v state of bihar when in 1958 the court upholding the anti-cow slaughter laws of states of Bihar, UP and MP stated that the country is in short supply of milch cattle, breeding bulls and working bullocks, and a total ban on the slaughter was essential to the national economy for the supply of milk, agricultural working power and manure. In this case, the court observed that the legislature is the best judge of what is good for the community in order to arrive at what shall account for reasonable restrictions in the imposition of such laws.
Hence, first, two major questions should be raised: a) Are we still in shortage of such supply for the restriction to be called reasonable? b) Does the application of mind by legislature cease to exist upon formulation of a law or should it be a perpetual exercise?
Last, we need to understand that our constitution in itself is a thriving document and each law needs a constant revisitation. Under most state laws illegal transport, slaughter has been made a non-bailable offence. What needs to be assessed is whether the stringency of punishment and procedure falls in line with the object sought to be achieved by these acts.
 http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=188146 accessed on 11 February 2019
 http://dahd.nic.in/related-links/chapter-ii-exective-summery accessed on 11 February 2019
 Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967
 Maintenance of Internal Security Act,1971
 AIR 1975 SC 1496
 1966 AIR 740
 AIR 1970 SC 1228
 1984 AIR 444
 Bimla dewan v. Lt Governor, AIR 1982 SC1257
 Interpretation of Constitution through judicial decisions http://sri.nic.in/sites/default/files/Interpretation%20of%20Constitution%20through%20judicial%20decisions.pdf as accessed on 11 February 2019
 AIR 1958 All 198