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The government of India has sought to effectively prohibit cattle slau...

  Aug 08, 2017

The government of India has sought to effectively prohibit cattle slaughter across the country through rules made under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Can this be considered a constitutional misadventure? What are the legal aspects associated with such a move?

The government of India has sought to effectively prohibit cattle slaughter across the country through rules made under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Though the rules do not explicitly ban slaughter, they ban the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter at agricultural markets and therefore, in effect, are attempting to put an end to all kinds of cattle slaughter across the country.
It is a constitutional misadventure on multiple grounds involving fundamental rights, separation of powers and federalism.
Laws Killing of animals permitted under other existing
Further, in sub-clause (3)(c) of the Act, it is clearly stated that killing of animals permitted under other existing laws cannot be made an offence. There exist multiple state legislations that permit the slaughter of cattle and the Government of India (GoI) cannot then use this Act to render such slaughter illegal. In issuing this latest set of rules, the GoI has exercised power it does not have under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
Glaring anomaly
Another glaring anomaly in the new rules is that the government seems interested in preventing cruelty only to cattle (defined as bovine animals including the cow, bull, bullock, buffaloes, steers, heifers, calves and camels). There cannot be any constitutionally acceptable reason for leaving out chickens, pigs, sheep, goats, fish, rabbits, etc.
Different state legislations Cow slaughter in the Directive Principles of State Policy Indian Courts