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Why in the news?
Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tabled proposed legislation to protect cattle in the state on the first day of the Budget Session of the state assembly.
Main objective of the bill:
- It seeks to protect cattle by regulating their slaughter, consumption, and preventing their illegal transportation.
- The Bill provides for the prevention of slaughter of cows unless a registered veterinary officer issues a certificate that the animal is fit for slaughter.
- Only cows over 14 years of age or those permanently incapacitated due to work, breeding, accident, or deformity will be certified for slaughter.
- Certified cattle can be slaughtered only at licensed and recognised slaughterhouses.
- The state government may exempt certain places of worship, or certain occasions from the slaughter of cattle other than cow, heifer or calf, for religious purposes.
- The Assam Cattle Preservation Act 1950, which already exists, controls cattle slaughter in Assam if concerned veterinary authorities provide a fit-for-slaughter certificate.
- Cattle above the age of 14 can be slaughtered under certain conditions.
- It was revoked because it lacked adequate legislative measures to “control cattle slaughter, consumption, and transportation.”
Important Provisions of the Bill:
- Cattle slaughter is prohibited: According to Section 4 of the Bill, “no person shall kill or cause to be slaughtered any cow, or offer or cause to be offered for slaughter of any cattle.”
- Certificate requirement: Section 5 states that any animal may only be slaughtered if a certificate in writing is provided by a licensed veterinary officer who is of the opinion that the bovine, if not a cow, is over 14 years old and has “become permanently disabled.”
- Inter-State Movement: Section 7 of the Bill prohibits inter-state transport of cattle to and from, as well as through, Assam without valid papers, adding, “no person shall transport, offer for transport, or cause to be moved any cattle, without valid permit, from Assam:
- Any place in another state to any place outside the state of Assam via Assam.
- Any site in Assam to any point beyond Assam where cattle slaughter is not regulated by law.”
- However, no authorization is necessary to transport cattle for grazing or other agricultural or animal husbandry reasons, as well as to and from registered animal markets, within a district.
- Stop livestock smuggling: This is done to prevent cattle smuggling to Bangladesh, which shares a 263-kilometer border with Assam. Because the 1950 Act lacked adequate legal measures to “regulate cattle slaughter, consumption, and transportation,” it was necessary to pass new laws.
- For Bill, all cattle kinds are the same: The Bill is applicable to all cattle kinds, including “bulls, bullocks, cows, heifers, calves, male and female buffaloes, and buffalo calves,” since it makes no distinction between them.
- Exceptions: The proposed legislation provides for some exceptions, such as when “slaughter of cattle, not being a cow, heifer, or calf” is permitted on “religious occasions.”
- Penalties: Anyone found guilty faces a minimum sentence of three years in prison (extendable to eight years) and a fine of Rs 3 lakh (with a maximum of Rs 5 lakh), or both. The punishment will be increased for repeat offenders.
- 5 KM ambiguity: Temples can be built everywhere, and controlling this pointer will result in turmoil and law and order issues.
- Increased Polarization: These laws may set more political precedents, resulting in more community disputes.
- Communal disturbance: Such kind of decision made by any political party may hurt the religious sentiments.
- All cattle kinds are covered: Assam’s proposed rule does not differentiate between various species of cattle; it will apply to all livestock, including “bulls, bullocks, cows, heifers, calves, male and female buffaloes, and buffalo calves.” Both Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh include only cow progeny in the anti-slaughter Act, but not buffaloes.
Restrictions on transportation of cattle:
- The bill aims to prohibit livestock from being transported from outside the state and to limit their mobility inside Assam.
- According to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960, a competent body may grant licenses for the movement of cattle for legitimately genuine agricultural or animal husbandry reasons.
- There would be no need for authorization to transport cattle for grazing, agricultural, or animal husbandry reasons within a district.
- Cattle transportation to and from authorized animal markets for sale and purchase inside a district will likewise be exempt from obtaining authorization.
Is there any restriction on the sale?
- No one will be allowed to sell beef or beef products in any form except at places permitted by the government.
- Beef would not be allowed to be sold in areas where Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and other non-beef-eating communities predominate, or within a five-kilometer radius of any Hindu temple, satra (Vaishnavite monastery), or other religious institutions, or any other institution or area as prescribed by the competent authority.
- The Assam Animals Preservation Act, 1950, permits the killing of cattle beyond the age of 14 years with prior authorisation. The new bill aims to abolish the statute from 1950.
Is there any provision for penalties for violations?
- The offenders are facing sentences ranging from three to eight years in jail. It also stipulates penalties ranging from Rs. 3 lakh to Rs. 5 lakh.
- For the second and subsequent convictions, the bill intends to penalize repeat offenders with twice the jail time and penalties.
Impact on other north-eastern states:
- Apart from cattle, Assam is the major entrance to the northeast area; nearly all products from other regions of the nation are brought there via Assam.
- Cattle supply to Christian-majority regions where beef is consumed are expected to be affected by the bill.
- Meghalaya’s chief minister has stated that if the planned law has an impact on the state’s beef supply, he will take the matter to the Centre.
The act may lead to a step up in the government’s fight against cow smuggling to Bangladesh, which has been going on for a long time through the porous international border and riverine areas along the international border. The new legislation would overturn the 1950 Act, which made it legal to eat beef.
Mains oriented question:
Discuss critically how the sale of beef in Hindu, Sikh & Jain areas ban affects various stakeholders.(200 words)